Stone-coloured pillows

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Chapter 1

1

Their meeting was not an eventful one. It was not one of these grande love scenes where two people lay eyes upon each other and know. Julia was sitting in his kitchen one afternoon. Her hands were clutching a mug of milky tea; her nails, Christopher noticed, were painted a deep chocolate. That was what he noticed first, her nails. Second were her eyes, a light blue, like his own, and flecked with greys and navys and yellows, framed in their sockets by lightly-mascaraed eyelashes. After these two initial, superficial observations, came the realisation that this girl knew how to hold herself. She was sat in his kitchen, talking loudly to his mother and sister, but she commanded their attention as if it were her own. It was evident that this performance would occur regardless of the girl’s audience; she could be in a room of dozens of people, and they would probably still listen to her in the same way that his family were right now, with laughter drawn across their faces.

That was when Julia stepped out of whatever story she had just been telling and looked at Christopher. A flash of recognition passed between them, and suddenly they were much younger - children. Christopher’s broad frame was momentarily replaced by that of a lanky, scrawly boy, with wire-rimmed glasses. Julia was curly-haired, and smiling, with a pixie-like pointed nose which was slightly freckled; the freckles which had disappeared as she got older. She hadn’t been an ugly child, but Christopher thought that she had somewhat grown into her features.

She stood then, pushing her mug absently across the table, and Christopher embraced her politely. She smelt good; like recently-shampooed hair, with the hint of something sweet which could have been perfume, applied earlier that day, but could equally have been just the scent of her skin, it was difficult to tell.

And that was it, they made small talk, the four of them, for a few minutes, and then Christopher excused himself and left. Julia was slightly surprised to feel a pang of disappointment as she watched him leave the room. Christopher was equally surprised to feel a similar pang. But that’s why he decided that he should go; the less time he spent with Julia, the better.

“Fuck.” Julia sang the word to herself over and over on the

journey back along the M3. She felt fit to burst: the butterflies in her stomach were large, angry birds, with powerful wings and they were fucking with her insides. Despite the warm, slightly stale-smelling air blowing in her face from the dashboard of the old Micra, Julia could see her hairs standing on her arms. The last 24 hours had shifted everything and, as she drove back to the house she and Jamie shared with his parents, she felt like she had gained a weight in her limbs and her gut that hadn’t been there yesterday morning. She felt sure they would all notice this weight. How could they not? It was so apparent.

“Fuck”, she swore again, she had taken a wrong turn. Julia had never been the best navigator and now, with the added distraction of the birds and the weight, she could not focus on the road. She pulled out her phone, intent on calling Jamie, to tell him that she had just added another 20 minutes onto her journey home and did he want her to get anything from the shop on the way, but instead her thumb tapped the number most recently added. Julia’s eyes fixed themselves back on the motorway, she corrected her car so she was back within the parameters of her lane, thankful for the lack of traffic on the road, and listened as the ringing phone buzzed through the bluetooth of her vehicle. The Micra was as old as she was, but the previous owner had kindly installed a new radio and bluetooth, which reverberated uncomfortably above a certain volume and flashed primary colours at her while she was driving. The ringing continued and still he did not answer, perhaps he was asleep - no one had slept much the previous night.

“Hello?”, he wasn’t asleep.

“Oh, hey, I was just calling to see if you’re alright.”

“Julia?”

“Yeah, I’m just driving back. I still have a while to go.” She added, “I took a wrong turn”, in a slightly ill-tempered tone.

The rest of Julia’s journey was spent in his company, and passed much more quickly for it. They chatted about their plans for the week ahead - what he was up to at work, which classes she had assignments due for, how her teaching schedule was looking. To say there was an elephant between them was an understatement. They chatted until Julia pulled up to the little supermarket in Sonning, on a mission to get naan bread and beers, whereby they said their goodbyes. Julia, Christopher realised, hated saying goodbye. Despite the casualness of their exchange, the goodbye was drawn out, a little painful. “I’ll call you tomorrow,” he reassured. “Get some rest.”

Christopher lay his head back down on the pillow he had been dozing against when Julia had called. His hand with the phone felt electrically charged. Turning his head to the side he looked at the empty space next to him; it was crazy to think that just hours ago Julia had filled that space. As he drifted off, he wondered if she would again.

When Christopher awoke the following morning he found

himself clutching at the edges of some dream he had been having: he knew it was a good one, vivid and sexy, he was sure of that by the throbbing in his crotch, but he couldn’t quite make out what it had been about. He knew one thing though, Julia’s face was engraved in his mind.

Reaching a long arm out of the warmth of the duvet, Christopher grappled for his phone, with blurred eyes that had as much to do with his poor sight as they did his sleepiness, he saw that it was 6:40am. He had time; he would have a calm start to the week: a shower, a sweet black coffee and a bagel. Cruise into work on his motorbike. Crack on. This week was a crucial one, he was handing over an important piece of work, something which would, if all went to plan, earn the company big money. He couldn’t afford to be distracted. And yet. Julia’s face reappeared at the edge of his mind, as if she had been patiently waiting her turn in a queue. She now boarded his thoughts. And rode them to wild places.

With closed eyes, Christopher remembered the way Julia had moaned softly as he kissed her neck. The way they had danced earlier that evening. Her playful gaze as she held his hand. He remembered how warm her breath had been against his face just before they had first kissed, as she lay on the pillow next to him. How her mouth had tasted minty with an undertone of sharp Tequila. He remembered the way she had touched him, tentatively, with careful though assured hands. How wet her pyjama shorts had been when he finally gathered up the courage to touch her.

Actually courage was the wrong word entirely; their acts of the previous night had not taken courage; Christopher felt simply as though he had revoked some of his control, released himself, rolled into Julia like a snowball rolls down a hill, gathering size and momentum. This snowball of theirs already felt huge - and all it had taken was a small push. As his left hand tightened beneath the covers, he pictured her small, athletic body above him, the way her torso and face and hair had replaced his ceiling. It was a transformation that he would not have found himself complaining about if it was to be permanent; who needs ceilings anyway? His climax had come with the memory of hers from the previous night, her head had fallen backwards, her mouth open in a deliciously surprised ‘O’, the way her abdominals had contracted on top of him, as he held her hips, pulling her closer to him, taking charge of the motion once she had revoked control. The way she had looked at him, with care and attention, and a hot, burning, sensual desire. His own eyes rolled back slightly now, his breathing fast. His core engaged in the pulsing that had momentarily overcome his whole body.

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