Clandestine Heart

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Chapter 22

My spotless love hovers with purest wings,About the temple of the proudest frame,Where blaze those lights, fairest of earthly things,Which clear our clouded world with brightest flame

Samuel Daniel


Lara was not sure how long she would have gone on sleeping if not for the golden sunlight beaming through the open curtain across the carpet and the smell of fresh, fragrant coffee that stirred her sleeping mind, luring her to wakefulness.

As she surfaced from slumber, she wondered why there was something different… She felt something irrevocably foreign, then she remembered. Her eyes few open. She roused enough to lean up on an elbow and glanced around. Gradually disorientation swept over her.

She turned her head to another side and realized that she was alone in the bed, Tristan was nowhere to be found.

Tristan…

A sense of dread now crept on her. A dread how to talk to him again about what had happened of how he had helped her then brought her here to his place then when she had kissed him on the balcony and finally how she had pleaded him to make love her.

It took one memory to trigger another one, but they piled up swiftly now and in order she had received them. When she reached the final ones that had been acquired in this very room, her hand dropped back to the bed and inwardly groaned.

Had last night been real?

Clutching the rumpled duvet, her eyes once again scanned the entire room, locating the clock. It showed that it was already at the shocking late hours of eleven in the morning. Then she saw what was the source of the smell that greeted her nostril enticingly settled on the table with the addition of the heady aroma of croissant.

Immediately, she got up of from the massive, comfortable bed then collected her clothes that were laying on the chair in the room with some trepidation. She then took her bag and searched inside it to find the toothbrush, something that she always carried before finally rushed to the bathroom.

Once she was inside, she gave a slight gasped when she saw how enormous this bathroom and she could not help but to admire the infinity of this, yet there was no time to linger.

She needed to leave this place soon.

She walked to the smooth marble table she saw her reflection in front of the mirror.

She stood, unmoved as she stared at herself blankly.

The healthy weight she had had before dissolved quickly for the past six months. The woman she was seeing in front of the mirror was so thin and bony. There was a bluish mark just below her cheek. Her lips were swollen. Her eyes were becoming sallow from all the nights of crying. Dark bags had formed underneath them and her skin had lost its healthy glow. It was unbelievable what time and sorrow could have done to someone.

And what is all about this woman that Tristan see? She asked herself. She was looking in pain, far from being pretty. She did not heritage a big sum of money and obviously she was a scandal to her gender.

Lara shuddered and sighed deeply, the sign of giving up her own confusing thoughts to find the reason why Tristan finally had admitted to her that he loved her. She then turned on the valve before cupped warm water with her hands and splashed it on her face. She winced the moment the water touched her face. Obviously the pain was still there, yet other than that she felt fresh.

Grabbing the hand towel that was hung next to the mirror, she gently rubbed her face, hoping that she did not give the impression of being appalling.

Twenty minutes later she was ready. Her hair washed, blown dried and neatly secured. Her body clothed in her last night dress, though suddenly she felt shameful for wearing it, not because it was the same dress, it was because the dress itself. Nevertheless she had to wear it and she had to wear it again in front of him.

A shadow fell across her face. Perhaps he no longer wanted her this morning.

He had probably realized that it had been a mistake. It had been only an impulse of the moment when he had saved her and confessed.

Her stomach churned.

Well, she only needed to face it now.

Straightened up her shoulders, Lara opened the bathroom door and stunned to see Tristan was already standing in front of the bathroom door.

“Tristan!” She breathed his name. “What…What are you doing?” Her voice sounded strangulated but she made herself go on. “I was just about to look for you.”

“I’m here now.” He replied tenderly, still lounging in the doorway, six feet of stunning dark good looks and lean, lithe elegance, his attitude one of deceptive indolence. “Do you need anything, Lara?”

Hesitancy was creeping into her eyes, she felt the color steadily mounting and burning her cheeks. “Well, I…” She looked down did not dare to stare at him. “I have to go…”

“Why do you have to go?” He interjected swiftly. He then leaned forward, dangerously standing so close to her.

“I… I have to go back to my place.” Her voice was faint, while she studied his figure beneath her eyelashes. She was ensorcelled as she thought that Tristan looked perfect in navy blue sweater and black pants. He was astonishingly handsome like one of the stars in the television show, but was more than that since in this reality he belonged into this casually elegant atmosphere. While she, wearing the same cheap outfit from last night, was looking…. Cheap.

Tristan stood, without taking any movement. His gaze bored on her. “Do you want to go back to your place now.”

“Well yes, I mean…”

“Why?” He asked while taking a step closer before he slowly extended his hand to reach Lara and led her to one of armed-chairs near to the window. “Why do you want to go now?”

“I need to go to work.” She told him brusquely, taking her seat. The words burst from her, dismayed and anxious.

Tristan did not respond, merely took his place on the chair across the table from her. “Do you have to do that?” He asked while pouring both cups.

“Yes, that’s why I need to go back and to get change.” Lara replied, while her eyes stole a look at him, absorbing every single detail of his movement with familiar quiver that always accompanied her awareness of him, how the leanness of his wrist was accentuated by the sliver of magnificent watch strap, the casual look he displayed today was as well as devastating as when he looked on formal attire.

Then his eyes flicked up from setting back the coffee jug and handed the cup to her “A this state of your condition?” His voice sounded slightly berated.

“I know…But.. But… I need to work.” She replied, accepting the coffee.

“Do you want keep it black instead of white?” His hand hovered over a jug of hot mill that stood on the coffee tray on the beside table.

“Oh… White, please… thank you.” Her voice sounded breathless, even to her.

Tristan poured her cup with small amount of milk and placed it back to its place before he stirred with the teaspoon.

Now she felt so awkward. She only whispered haltingly. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” He murmured. His eyes meeting hers and a smiled played at the corner of his sculpted mouth.

She gave a silent gulp. She did not know why she had chosen white coffee while, she always drank black coffee instead of white. But the way Tristan was serving her, was something no one had ever done before to her. It had made her to take any opportunity just to be what she was having right now.

Suddenly feeling so shy to look him in the eye, Lara raised the coffee to her lips for a tiny sip of hot, pale coffee.

“So…” He said, easing himself more on the chair. “Are you really sure, need to go to work? While you’re coping with your wound.”

She lifted up her eyesight to will herself to look at him. “It’s just a bruise. It’ll heal soon.” She remarked.

“But it hasn’t.” He ventured, sipped his coffee briefly then continued. “I suggest you to take a day or two days off, from your work. I want to spend my time with you.”

She knew that Tristan was correct. It was impossible to work with her look right now, even go to the campus.

But spending time with him…

“I know, but I can’t do that. The restaurant has less of employees today. Besides after the restaurant I’ve to go to the campus also.” She replied reluctantly.

“Make a call.” He ordered in a deep, husky voice and took another sip.

She told him haltingly. “Tristan, I can’t just take a day off with sudden announcement like this to them.”

His eyes flicked up from his coffee cup. For a moment longer he said nothing, just let his dark, unreadable gaze on her. Then Tristan set his cup down with a clatter and folded his arms across his chest. Those outfits fit him like a second skin and made his tanned flesh look even darker. “Make a call. Or I will do it on your behalf.”

“But…”

“Where’s your work place?” He demanded.

“I’m doing some waitress chores in De Blanche restaurant.” She answered, placing her own coffee cup also onto the table.

“Take a day off today, Lara, as I’m going to have also.”

Tristan watched the expression of confusion formed on her face. She opened her mouth to speak, but he forestalled her. “Don’t you think we need to talk about last night, Lara?”

“Last night?” Her voice was strained, bewildered and anxious. This was something she had been dreadful about. She wanted to escape from his soonest, but it seemed Tristan was not willing to do so yet to her.

“Yes.” He said. “And what left off after we both fell asleep.” His voice was composed. His eyes held hers. Unblinking and there was something deep in there.

“Tristan…” She took a deep breath, gathering her strength. “About last night, I think we shouldn’t repeat it.”

His eyes examined her to the core of her heart before he charged with a flat tone. “Meaning?”

“We aren’t compatible, Tristan.” Her throat felt raw and it throbbed feverishly. “I really do feel grateful that you’ve helped me last and your…” She paused to try formulating the word. “And what you said to me, but can you please see from other point of view? What do we have in common?”

Tristan took in a deep, angry breath. His mouth formed a thin line. “It seemed you didn’t think about what we have in common years ago when you told me that you loved me.”

Lara’s face was twisted with bitterness. “You’re right, I didn’t think back then.” She shook her head with building frustration. “God, last night I didn’t know what got into me before…” She closed her eyes briefly hoping to gain some strength to continue. “But I can assure you, it won’t happen again.”

“It won’t happen again?” He echoed. His gaze had sharpened.

“Tristan, I really grateful that you finally… Finally have the feeling towards me. But we have to see the reality.” She laughed bitterly. “Hence, I saw the reality back then, how different we were…”

“And yet you kept telling me that you loved me.”

“I knew, I shouldn’t have done it.” She warily replied. “Like I said last night, I thought I could have a chance though how slim it was, perhaps I was just pushing my luck, back then…”

“No one pushing the luck for three times, Lara.” He leaned forward, running his fingers through his thick dark hair. But his attention kept on staring at her with his dark granite-hard eyes.

“You’re right.” She agreed in tight quivering spurts of words. “But back then I was… I was still… I was still the old me.” She said bleakly and dragged air into her ragged lungs austerely. And when she began again it was with deflated air. “Everything’s changed, Tristan. We can’t go back or talk about the past…”

“We can create the future.” Tristan interrupted. His gaze still did not vacillate.

She ran a shaky hand across her face. “Tristan, Shall I repeat what I said last night, at the hospital? You know who I am and your position. There’s no way that anyone in any level of social ladder would accept us. Your reputation would be in stake if we…” She shrugged, having difficulty to continue, but she had to. “If we’re in relationship. Who on earth would see that this relationship is normal? We have no future.” She finally added, suddenly feeling so hopeless.

“You think too much about it. In my opinion, what you just said were only some flight of excuse you have concocted.” He stated icily.

Lara growled, her teeth gritted and her frustration deepened. “There are not excuses. “She paused inhaling a desperate breath. “There are the truth.”

“No.” He said adamantly and waved an impatient hand. “For me those are your excuses or perhaps your punishment after what I have done to you. And I can understand and accept that fact…”

“Tristan, it’s not like that…”

“Give us, no…’’ He shook his head quickly then added. “Give me a chance, Lara.”

“Oh Tristan…” She said and stared at him helplessly.

“That’s why, I asked you to take a day off today. We have a lot things to say and straighten things out.” He told her unrepentantly. “Besides, I’m quite tired with work. I just want to enjoy my time with you.” He added with suddenly a lopsided smile he had rarely displayed on her.

“Enjoy your time with me?” She reprised. Her eyes flared wide in surprise. Did not he listen what she had said earlier?

But oh, the way he had said that and the way he smiled… It was so alluring. She felt her heart melt into a pool inside her.

“Yes.”

“Tristan, I’m not sure I can do that…” She cut off dead and, biting her lips, she made a face. “Besides even though it can, I’m sure you have something better to do…I mean… you are busy and…” She made another face. “And important…” She swallowed. “And I just can’t…” Hastily she picked her cup and drank some more of coffee, dropping her head so that her tumbled hair veiled her sudden embarrassment to speak so incoherently like an idiot.

“Lara, look at me.”

That gentle request placated her enough to look at him while Tristan got up to his feet and took a single step to approach her. He placed her coffee cup onto the table before he began again. “You’re important to me.” He bent down, resting on of his hands at the back of her chair while the other one clasped her fingers. “I want to spend my time with the important person in my life.” He whispered, his striking handsome face was perilously close.

Her breath hitched irregularly when she met the unfathomable eyes that radiated a dazzling spark. “I’m not important, Tristan…” She said sadly. She really wanted to break the hold his eyes had on hers.

“Is not you to decide that, Lara.” He interjected with magnificent arrogance.

“Tristan, please, can you just drop what has happened last night?” She averted her face at last and broke their shared eye-contact. She even managed to pull her hand away, realizing that, the situation was beyond her control now.

“No, Lara, I can’t just drop it.” He argued calmly. He did not try to take her hand again, however he remained in the same position.

“Tristan…”

“We’ll discuss later on. Let’s just make a plan for today.” He said, though it was soft but it was inflexible.

Next thing he did was to lean forward kissing her on her forehead. Gradually he drew back, but still in the same position “Please call your employer and tell that you can’t work for today and tomorrow.”

She felt defeated. There was no way that she could win this conversation with him. Or perhaps unconsciously she made herself that way. Still she made the last straw of attempt of resistance to avoid spending time with him. “I still need to go to my campus. I have a class for today.”

“No problem.” He showed that half smile at his mouth again. It made his mouth even more beautiful. “I’ll wait there.” He gently stated and lowered his mouth to brush hers lightly, lingeringly before he straightened up and nodded towards the coffee on the table. “Drink up and have some croissant, Lara.”

Obediently, she picked up her cup and took another mouthful of coffee, glad he had settled back to his chair and now was drinking his own coffee.

She stole a look at him, feeling the thrill rippled through her with a twist of something that was probably confusion when he had told her that she had been important.

Did he really mean that? Was she that important to him? She pondered as she watched Tristan drink from his own cup and everything about the gesture registered as if in ultra-focus. Such as the way his hand was splayed under the saucer, holding the weight of the cup, the elegant turn of his wrist as he lifted the cup, the fall of his hair as he lowered his head slightly to drink.

And oh his kiss…

Wistfully she took another draught.

She, who was nothing and had nothing. She, who was no one and had no one. She, who had only adored him from distance all these time and had been rejected years ago. Now was being wanted by him.

Was he that serious and what had changed his mind?

Perhaps… Just perhaps…

“Lara…”

She met his eyes again and saw there was the mixed look of exultation and excitement in his dark eyes. “Yes?” She replied.

Tristan stoop up and approached her. He extended his hand to grab hers and said gently to her with a smile. “Shall we go now?”

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