“I’m so sorry!”
A young man is staring, first at the wine oozing from my cuff, then up my sodden sleeve onto my face and my expression - no, not my expression. There is no room for expression on a face fully populated with fury.
The red pattern that originated in Bordeaux and now adds an extra hue to my suit and the company’s carpet has focused both our attentions. Mine is not only on fury, but also my unexpected left handed humidity. His expression is singular - simple horror.
A hand snakes between us, smothering my arm with tissues.
“Someone bumped me.” His stuttered excuse is blurted from a trembling mouth. I should have known - at a cocktail party, wine waterfalls are anonymous.
He is about twenty three and in a hell of a state. As I would be were I his age and had just ruined one of my director’s suits.
But not only am I furious, damp and dismayed, it seems I am also incorrect - I am not one of his directors. He does not work for our company; he is a guest, as is his girlfriend behind me, to which the tissues, via her hand, were attached.
Unthinking, automatic, and polite. Three, I think fair descriptions of my turn towards her.
My stare, so intense and so fixed, hurts.
Mind bending, gut stabbing, amazement! Three more descriptions - for the thunderbolts that produced the gasp I only just managed to smother.
She shimmers beside me!
More! Much, more! Much, much, more!
An explosion of beauty!
Attractive, slim, blonde, vivacious, fresh, and she has incited - it could not be stopped this time - a gulp.
Total smack in the face surprise!
I know her, by God, I know her - I have been thinking about her since I hit her. And I thought she was gone forever.
Turning a head away is easy, but if the mind does not want the eyes to leave they won’t, so dragging them to follow is not. Fortunately no one noticed my struggle. Looking for too long at a beautiful woman can turn quickly into a lascivious stare, so the ration is only the briefest glance.
My expressions have the habit of revealing to everybody things I would prefer it did not, and with this young lady my face would be almost pornographic.
I steady myself. Excitement tickles to my finger tips.
Thank God she’s behind the wine hooligan; otherwise I would grab and ravish everything she has.
“You must send me the bill for the cleaning.” Her boy friend has taken the tissues, balled them nervously, and is obsequiously dabbing my stain to absolutely no effect.
I thrust the glass that he emptied forward.
“I’d rather have more wine.”
He scuttles off, thankful to be able to make amends with physical movement, especially away from me.
That, I think, was a cool request. It showed his girlfriend I’m big enough to take a stain and not make a clock about it.
From her body language she is going to introduce herself - as if I could have forgotten her.
“De Guise,” smiling broadly, she is holding out her hand. “Arielle de Guise.”
“Ransom,” smiling even wider, I am taking it. “Julian Ransom.”
Now we have introduced ourselves a la James Bond, how else can we impress each other?
Forget it! I am saturation impressed. She is absolutely stunning, more so than I remember.
She smiles not only with her mouth, but also her eyes, she gestures with an inborn elegance, and sells her words with her body. This is a unique woman.
“I am so pleased to meet you - again.” Her words had provocative emphasis and my eyes were captured by a look that I can only describe as sexual. But the shudder that ran down my spine was ignited by something special, extra special; the squeeze from her hand was electrifying.
My room stood still.
That was a come on!
That was a come on?
Why should a just twenty something make a good forty something pulse with curiosity? No, with amazement. No, be honest Julian - with desire.
Her wide green eyes were telling me something, something I had not been told for years.
“God you’re beautiful!”
No! No, no, no, no - shit!
That just blurted out. Bite your tongue Ransom; you’re making a fool of yourself. I cringe, waiting for her put down.
“I love you!”
She hurtles into close up then retreats like a crazy zoom.
Did she say ‘I love you’? I have to repeat that.
Did she say I love you?
Or was it my lying imagination?
I have just been hit by a bus, but it is incidental, I am otherwise occupied, magnetised, engulfed, and totally captivated. I have been with her what, for thirty seconds? And she is smouldering.
No woman has looked at me like that before.
”Don’t loose me again - I have to see you, please find me.” Her glance is anxious. “Please.”
Blast - her boyfriend is wobbling towards us with my glass.
I need a deep breath, so I take not one, but three, to cope with the shocks shooting up my arm. Her hand is still holding and squeezing mine with a finger tickling the inside of my palm. Desperately I fix my eyes on her shoulders, two delicate pieces of carved ivory that need to be concentrated on - to stop myself dribbling and grabbing. This can not be happening, not at a company cocktail party.
“Please!” My hand drops, gently released as her twitchy companion joins us.
The glass of wine appears under my nose.
“I’m William.” A hand that I’m sure will be limp and sweaty is pushed forward.
“Ransom, Julian Ransom.
“That’s how James Bond introduces himself.” William giggles.
“Yes,” I reply. “He copied it from me.” That was another cool remark, this girl inspires me.
Arielle slips me an amused grin as William thinks about it. I am doing well here, but I have to do better. I need to take the lead, I need information,
I need her telephone number, I need to stay near her, and I need to get rid of William.
She has not taken her eyes off me, I can feel we already have a bond, invisible because of those around us, but as strong as steel. I revel in her gaze and return her smile when it is safe. I refuse another glass of wine, the first time I have done that since I can remember. Nothing must smudge my memory of this meeting.
William is talking, I neither hear nor listen, and my eyes are locked in conversation with his girlfriend. Although if she continues looking at me like this, soon her sweaty William must notice.
“Are you all right?” He has.
“No,” her head shakes. “I am not.”
She has not broken her look, her beautiful green eyes are still telling me, inviting me, and promising me.
Now William is looking. His gaze has transferred from Arielle to me. If it were not for his puzzled expression, it might be that he has fallen in love with me as well. But the sparkles his girlfriend and I are exchanging are upsetting him more than somewhat.
“We have to go.”
He does not realise it, but that line keeps his day civilised, and leading Arielle off into the crowd has averted embarrassment, kidnap, and possible consenting rape.
It makes no difference; we seek each other out. Between heads, over shoulders, and swaying slightly to keep each other in sight should another body have the temerity to block our view of each other.
Concentration on the function is almost impossible, but, as the finance director of the company, I am regularly buttonholed by shareholders, and am forced to wrench my brain back to the mundane.
How can I get near her?
William, with regular worried glances in my direction, is steering her further and further away.
But I have the advantage of knowledge of the terrain. He has made a mistake and has moved her towards an entrance that will serve me perfectly - it leads to the toilets.
And I am going to go!
She is squarely across my path. I make my excuses to a shareholder who is dressed as if he can only afford one share, and ease through the pack towards her. I move slowly, allowing my enjoyment to build and intensify into extreme pleasure as I near the eyes that shine.
William has his back to me so I can communicate, I write with an imaginary pen on the palm of my hand.
With a slight shake of the head her delicate shoulders shrug helplessly as I pass behind her.
No! Oh my god!
She has pushed her delightful little bottom against my hand!
I pause, feeling her warmth and firmness. But I cannot stop, I have to move. I cannot look around, I must continue, I am the finance director.
There is a queue for the toilet. The wait is long but I am unfazed, deliriously anticipating my return to the salon fires up white hot excitement.
This time I will pass in front of her and we shall see what happens! My eyes close and I fill my lungs, expanding myself with pleasure - this is a shareholders meeting I shall never forget!
But the crowd has thinned, my disappointment soars. It is not necessary to peer between bodies or above heads. The room and my life have darkened considerably.
Beautiful Arielle and bloody sweaty William have left.
I snatch another glass of wine from a passing tray, this meeting can now smudge as much as it likes.
Groups still talk animatedly, drinking the companies wine and grabbing the last canapés off the passing trays. Why, I cannot understand. The company has had a blinder of a year, there is little to discuss with success, unless of course one cannot withstand the urge to smooth more cream on already oiled backs.
Which of those backs would have invited William and Arielle? And, if discovering their benefactor, how could I dare pump them for information?
I am a respectable member of the board and even more respectably married man but this young lady has, to put it crudely, set my bin alight.
Asking for the telephone number and address of this ravishing creature does not fit with my persona. However cautious and carefully I construct my questions, I can almost see the knowing grins at my first enquiry.
The politics of a large company are wide and varied and they have an especially large pigeonhole marked ‘scandal’.
There is the telephone directory. Yes, it might have worked twenty years ago, but young women now live with their ear stuck to portables, and I certainly don’t want to speak to her parents, or husband.
My imagination balks at a husband - I do not want one in my fantasy.
Swirling my wine faster and faster and glaring as it brims the glass will not make him go away. But if she has one, why the shattering four lettered word?
A muddy though occurs; William did not give his surname. The mud turns to mire. Supposing it was De Guise, like in her husband?
The marriage picture does not quite make it.
A ravishing creature like Arielle would never marry a sweating wine tipper with a name like William.
The wine disappears from my glass in an annoyed gulp but the zonk as the alcohol hits, mellows my reasoning. Supposing it was De Guise, but like in brother?
Better, that’s a relationship I can live with. Complications are forbidden between me and my darling.
Suddenly my life is filled by her devastating beauty, her elegant gestures, and her bewitching glances. Oh my God, her eyes! Remember her green eyes!
The memory of her smiling across the room shudders down my body.
How, in hells name can I be so besotted by a girl I have seen ten minutes and have hardy spoken with?
Easily and happily it seems. And I thought life had run out of surprises - pleasant ones at least.
It never happened the first time we met.
Or did it?
Because I am such a reputable pillar of the community, did I unconsciously suppress her out of my life?
But that time she did not tell me she loved me.
It’s flattering and exciting to get the come on, but when the most gorgeous thing in the room shrivels you to pecky bits with a look that lights your blue touch paper, you know exactly which way your rocket’s going.
It is in the male genes, we are programmed. In an airport, a station, theatre, concert, anywhere that a beautiful, attractive, and vivacious female arrives the lads are there, some slyly from behind newspapers, in reflections in windows, some pretending to take pictures, some blatantly and full frontal, but we are all at it - watching her and wondering. Wondering and appreciating, fantasising and posing, but most of the time, imagining the unattainable.
But Arielle is attainable and there was a spark - it crackled between us.
OK, she gave me the come on, but I was on my way anyway.
I want her; I want her more than anything else in the world. I have got to find her.
Fuck to the accounts, there’s nothing of interest left in this meeting.
That special sinking feeling that only the closeness of our CEO can induce abseils from it’s hole in the dark part of my brain.
His pleasant expression, worn only in the presence of shareholders, does not fool me. It is going to be more unpaid overtime.
I try to hurry, but we drab our way through the meeting, and it is nearly seven before I can escape to my office.
The name De Guise brings shakes of the head from my colleagues, and after a brief look through the telephone directory (there are two De Guises’, neither have the initial A) my body resembles a question mark, slumped forlornly in my chair.
Disappointment has blunted my thrust, allowing my real world to re-intrude.
Julian, what are you getting yourself into? Think of Jennifer, think of James.
Think of what people will say (baby snatcher?) if you are caught doing what you are thinking of doing with Arielle.
I don’t care.
This is special, it will not happen again in my lifetime - I know it. To enter a room exhausted from worries and work and feeling like minus a million dollars, yet just an hour later walk out elated, twenty years younger and floating on love, proves it.
If that is the effect she has had upon me after ten minutes, by spending a week with her, I can rule the world.
But not yet – she has vanished.
The light begins to dawn, it was a shareholders meeting, she must be a shareholder! I switch on my computer, tapping impatiently on the keyboard. We have only seventy shareholders, why is it taking so long?
The list peels itself down the screen. De Guise is not on it. I start to think laterally as I was taught at business school yonks ago.
Nothing happens, which is not unusual, lateral thinking and my business career have never converged.
It is in moments of stress that I Google. Typing the name in the search box almost blisters the screen. Over a hundred and forty thousand results! I don’t have enough lifetime for them all. I type in A De Guise.
The reply is prompt; did you mean ‘a disguise’?
OK, sometimes even the mighty fail.
The computer ticks off as I go into my washroom for a glass of water, to remove the taste of the cheap wine we serve our shareholders.
‘Please find me’ she pleaded - the sound of her voice in my head makes my heart beat quicker. Suddenly my fist bags on the washbasin.
Security - she must have signed in!
My hands are a blur as I dry them. My feet are a blur as I race down to reception.
Feverishly I spin the book around before the porter can open it.
The visitors list joins the conspiracy against me. Arielle De Guise is becoming a deepening mystery.
She was a gate crasher!
I have always suspected, and now I am convinced, anyone can walk into our premises - our porters work for Bin Laden.
My sense of loss builds as I return to my office, pack my briefcase and lock my desk. I shall fall asleep tonight thinking of Arielle, thinking of her beauty and youth that already is eating away the life weary coating I have carried for years.
My ‘good evening’ to the porter, ignites a sudden upward jerk of his head, naughty Julian, you have woken him up.
“Mr Ransom!” He calls, still blinking away the slumber. “I am sorry, I forgot.”
The piece of paper he waves is for me and I struggle to read it as the door tries to close on me.
Outside the evening July sun is blazing, obliterating instantly the effects of our expensive air conditioning that I voted against.
The glare of the white note paper dazzles but I am just able to read the writing.
It is brief.
‘Finding you is easier - 07808752145.’
It is joy!
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