This Wretched Heart

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'You let me dangle at a cruel angle'.

'What kind of man' by Florence and the Machine.


‘ Are you sure darling you don’t want to go to that musical concert with Jane?’

‘ It’s ok mum I really don’t mind missing it , it’s fine’.

The truth was that initially he had been delighted to give it a miss. He had been to gig after gig with Jane as part of her new job and was beginning to get sick of the same date layout night after night. She would inevitably love every band and insist that they try to start chatting to them backstage. She had the uncanny ability to charm her way through, a quality he found both sexy and irritating. She would spend their date chatting up band members while he stood awkwardly in the background. This was new to him. Usually he was the chatty, social half of any date he had been on. He was the schmoozer minus the sleaze- he hoped. In Jane he had met his match. They were very similar in ways which unnerved him a little. It meant that he probably cringed more often in her company because it made him question his own behavior. ‘ Am I really that flirty?’ Kept running through his head followed by a wave of crimson across his face.

He had jolted a tad when Jane told him that Lara would be going to the gig with her instead. He knew that it was pointless but he wished he could see her again to explain how they started dating. He was nervous at how Jane would convey this story. She was very fond of embellishing situations. A trip to the shop would become ‘magical’ and ‘fabulous’ so he dreaded what synonyms of these would be used to anger Lara. Her beautiful face had concealed emotion on the tram but her hands played roughly with her clavicle , giving her away. Since then he had been tempted to contact her to explain, to tell her that he wasn’t being a shit. It was just unfortunate that the girl he happened to be on a first date with was one of her friends. He knew it sounded bad and although he had justified it to himself he wasn’t sure he would ever convey the same to Lara. He tried to subtly convey to Jane how it might make Lara feel awkward.

‘ What do you mean?’ She had seemed surprised when he told her not to over gloat about their relationship.

‘ It’s just well, we were friends first and so were you and now maybe she’s feeling like a third wheel’. This was of course valid but he didn’t add ‘ Plus I told her I have feelings for her and then she and Peter cut me out of their lives’.

‘ Yeah I suppose’. Jane had planted her warm red lips on his cheek ‘ But I can’t help wanting to show us off to everyone !’ Sticking out her bottom lip and making bunny gestures with her hands she added

‘ Are you sure you can’t come to the gig? It might make Lara get used to the idea of seeing us together?’

‘ Ah I’d love to but I can’t let my parents down.'

She didn’t put up a fight and part of him wondered was she glad that he and Lara wouldn’t get a chance to catch up. He had been all set to drive his parents to their function when his mum came bouncing into his flat.

‘ Darling, you can go to the ball after all ‘. She beamed ‘ We’ve asked George and Lily along.'

‘ Really ? Who’ll look after the restaurant?’ His parents had never socialized with this couple outside of their restaurant.

‘ Well they do have other staff obviously , we just thought it would be nice to have them sit with us through dinner for a change, I mean they are always buzzing about the place.'

‘ Do you not still want me to drive you all ?’ He wasn’t sure what answer he wished for.

‘ No my dear, George is insisting because he doesn’t want to be hungover tomorrow morning so it’s no problem, call Jane and tell her you can go.'

His mother had met her briefly and they had hit it off really well. Again Jane surprised him with her uncanny ability to schmooze her way through potentially awkward situations. He remembered his somewhat testy start with Mr. Bell and how he had won him over.

‘ Oh and tell her I have those vintage pieces for her in the shop, that girl really has a great eye for style.'She came over and gave him a big hug. ‘ I’m glad you’ve moved on.'

He didn’t want to tell her that she was sending him backwards and that Lara would be at the gig. The two had never met and he wondered how they would get on if they did. He couldn’t see Lara conversing as easily with her as Jane. After all Lara was from a completely different background and wouldn’t know much about vintage jewellery or the latest fundraising functions. Jane didn’t even have to swot up on these kinds of things , they formed the solid bedrock of her upbringing. These were the conversations that they would roll their eyes about over dinner and at parties for years and then find suddenly find themselves doing those exact same things. Sam had recently recommended a good plant shop to a friend who want to buy chrysanthemums. His delight at knowing the answer had been quickly overpowered by self loathing. But then maybe he had to accept his life and not buy into a reverse snobbery his dad told him he was guilty of.

‘ You can’t be ashamed of having a good life and upbringing’ He would tell him as a teenager when Sam’s face would turn red if his father ordered the most expensive Champagne or left out the silent letters in French words.

‘ It doesn’t mean we have to be so flamboyant though dad.’ he would plead ‘ I mean do we have to order the lobster just because it’s there?’

‘ I love lobster and I’ll tell you what you can have the chicken nuggets if you want to rough it so badly but don’t come crying to me when you develop a paunch and bad skin’.

Sam didn’t tell him that he was sure that lobster covered in garlic butter was worse but had stubbornly ordered sausages and chips.

Maybe his parents had been right, it was better to accept who you are. Jane was the very essence of that mentality. She made no apologies for having lots of money and spending it. Even in the current economic times , nothing had changed her attitude towards life. She felt bad for those who were suffering but she seemed to think that they deserved it if they weren’t willing to stand up and fight.

‘ I’ll cry about it when they pull us out of our homes and send us to the guillotine but right now let them have Aldi cake’. He had shuddered at this and tried not to overthink it because he knew he would never see her again if he did.

‘ Well are you going to ring Jane?’ His mum ring encrusted hand patted his arm.

The nerves were getting the better of him. Jane was delighted of course and insisted on meeting him at the house. This was strange because he knew Lara would be at the venue waiting.

‘ She’ll be fine she doesn’t mind’, Jane had assured him ‘ It’s good for her to be out on her own’.

They had arrived late and made their way through the crowd to the tables at the front.

His breath caught as he saw her sitting on her own her hair up in a ponytail was swaying to the music and lightly brushing her beautiful back which he had never seen before. He mused that he hadn’t seen her in a bathing suit on holidays. Marrakech wasn’t a seaside city and she and Peter hadn’t wanted to go the pool. They had seemed surprised that the villa didn’t have one but its central location meant that there was no land around it except for the beautiful courtyard in the middle. Lara had been modest in her attire which had impressed him although wearing little clothing wasn’t going to land you in prison it did draw unwanted attention. Looking at her pale creamy skin in the shape of a heart sent a slow seeping curl of black out his ventricles. She didn’t hug him but smiled at them both and he couldn’t believe that this was the same woman he revealed his feelings to in a faraway land. He knew it must have been awkward for her and he was wishing that he had stayed home. He was trying to think about a way to get her on her own when she excused herself to go the loo. He sat for a few moments wondering whether it was too obvious if he also excused himself. Jane didn’t know there was or had been anything ever between them but he was sure that she wasn’t stupid. Then again when you weren’t suspicious things could easily pass you by. He thought of Peter and cringed again. He looked over towards the loos and saw Lara making her way over to the bar.

‘ Jane’ he was trying to whisper because the gig was still going on.’ Lara’s at the bar so I’m going to go and get us all some drinks, to make up for the fact we were late’. He winked conspiratorially and this did the trick.

‘ Yeah good thinking’. She grinned ‘ I don’t think she’s too impressed with us’.

‘You have no idea’ he thought and made his way quickly to Lara before she came back.

She was playing with a beer mat and didn’t seem to be trying to get the barman’s attention. He felt a lump in his throat as he realised she was trying to avoid him. She had probably planned on making a quick getaway after the gig. He didn’t even have to pat her lovely arm because she turned as if she had sensed him behind her. Her smile was genuine this time and it reminded him of before they had the ‘talk’ but it stopped suddenly as if she remembered everything again.

‘ Sam do you want me to get you guys drinks?’ So she was going to play it this way.

‘ No Lara please I want to talk to you , I need to explain’. He expected her to say what people in this situation always seemed to

‘ No don’t bothe.r I understand perfectly well what’s going on.’ But as always she surprised him.

‘ That would be helpful, honestly I’m very confused by this whole thing’. In that second he realised what complete idiot he must have seemed. How could he ever have thought that going out with Jane in the first place was a good idea? Standing here with Lara he remembered their last conversation and the intensity between them. How had he convinced himself that the feelings were more on his part? She was clearly hurt. She was also clearly married.

‘ Lara I’m so sorry I know this must seem weird to you, me going out with your friend’.

‘ Ya think ?!’ She had never snapped at him before and he was reminded of the little rows he had witnessed between herself and Peter. It felt terrible.

‘ I have no justification really other than I didn’t think you girls saw each other much anymore and well I didn’t think we’d ever see each other again’. He stopped then waiting for her to walk away because there was nothing else really he could say.

‘ Look Sam I get it , I’m married there’s nothing I can or want to do to change that’. She turned towards the bar and beckoned him closer.

‘ I don’t want Jane to see us like this’ she was right their expressions were intense for people who were just waiting for drinks.

He was standing right beside her then and their arms were touching. This was the closest he had ever been physically connected to her and much to his dismay he felt himself go hard. She was close enough to feel it and he heard her breathe in sharply. He felt he should pull away but his pelvis was controlling him now.They just stared at each other and he knew she was enjoying this strange moment, just like him.Her body felt like a heat pack , comfortably reassuring and beautifully warm. Only this heat was spreading everywhere and he never wanted to move again.

She broke the silence.

‘Does it have to be Jane?’ She looked at him with despair ‘ I feel so so...’

‘Jealous?’ He felt bad immediately and again thought she might walk away.

‘ Yes Sam, I am jealous I mean how ridiculous is that?’ She had ripped a piece off the beer mat ‘I love Peter,I’m with Peter but yet I’m feeling completely jealous of you and Jane.’ Shaking her head a tear rolled down her cheek, off her chin and lost itself in the black of her top.

‘ I can’t ...’

’ You can’t what ?. Was she going to say ‘Leave Peter?’ was that even something that had crossed her mind. It must have.

‘ I can’t seem to stop thinking about you, I mean ever since Marrakech I just feel like everything is different. I mean my life is still the same but I’m changed and I don’t know where to go from here’. She smiled but it was more of a grimace ‘ I was even thinking of calling you but I thought you would ignore me because it had been so long’.

‘ I wouldn’t have Lara, I could never ignore you’.

‘So why didn’t you call or text me ?’

‘ You know I couldn’t. What would Peter have said. I mean I’m not stupid he obviously picked up on something, did you tell him about our conversation?’

‘He doesn’t know. I told him it was nothing’ More tears were flowing carrying her mascara downwards ‘ I lied’.

‘ Look Lara please don’t cry we didn’t do anything wrong. We can’t help this and how we feel but we can’t do this to Peter’. He cursed the day she had introduced him to her husband. It would have been so much easier to just let morals be damned if Peter’s friendly face wasn’t plastered all over his memories.

‘ How can you be so strong about it ? I mean to be honest if no one else was here I’m not sure I could...’ She didn’t have to say anything but she had turned her body a little more so her hips and pelvis were just barely touching his. He could hear his hear thumping in his ears and every fibre and feeling of his being were wiped out except for the parts that were tipping hers. His reflexes were about to pull her towards him and kiss her but something made him glance over at Jane who was busy swaying to the music. Lara immediately turned back to the bar and their beautiful connection was broken once more .

‘ It’s ok Sam this is the life we’re in and we can’t change it’. She sighed deeply and it looked like she was about to say something else. He was about to probe when a round of applause broke out.

‘One more tune, One more tune’.

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