That Next Step

‘Where are you taking me?’ she asked as he drove through the quiet suburban streets.
‘Just wait. You’ll see’
‘Such a standard line’ she scoffed in reply
He was grinning that grin that lit up his whole face. His face was made for that smile and he never used it as often as he did with her.
‘But it’s so true.’
She ignored him and watched the road.
They were in the higher part of the seaside suburb. Here the houses are all the old seaside mansions slowly being replaced by new seaside mansions. The streets were small and looked like sand tracks with a layer of tar over them. There were hardly any footpaths and if there were a group of people on the road a car wouldn’t get past them. She dreaded meeting a truck.
Finally he turned at the top of a lane with a view that caught her breath. He gave it the pause it was due.
‘Spectacular huh?’ he asked and then drove the car down the lane.
At the bottom he turned into a drive way before the lane met the beach hugging road.
‘Welcome to the Bend.’ He smiled.
‘The Bend; “Poets Bend” catchy huh?’

He got out and she slowly followed suit. He’d parked inside a gravel court yard before a brick double garage that could have been stables once upon an olden day. There were living quarters of some kind above it. The yard could park four or so cars in comfort. He led her along the seaside end of the building between a large hedge of some kind and the brickwork. There was a low picket gate standing open; it looked like it had been left like that for a century.

The house was one of the old ones. Two stories and weatherboard for the most part accept where the stone foundations rose up to support either a chimney or a large arch of windows. The veranda circled the house as was the style of the Victorian period. At the rear of the house this flowed out under a vine covered pergola to the semi wasted back yard, but considering the slope it had to contend with it was understandably left to its own devices.

They walked up onto the veranda and he shuffled to a stop rummaging in his deep coat pocket for the key. She walked to the end of the veranda and saw the magnificent view of the bay the sun beginning to set across it.
‘Ah come on no time to dally.’
‘Now where?’
‘Inside of course.’

He held open the door and shuffled her inside. They were in a hallway. To the right was a laundry and bathroom, to the left a massive kitchen. He shuffled her through this and into the dining room behind it and then on through to the magnificent front lounge room. All the rooms were empty of anything other than standard building fixtures. All in the décor of times gone by, deep window sills and leadlight edges, wood paneling to dado height, skirting boards, picture rails, tiled fireplaces and hearths, plaster cornices and ceiling roses and the tacky musty carpet of roses from a hundred years ago! Not content with that room he opened French doors and ushered her back outside onto the front balcony. Here stood a pair of wicker chairs holding comfy big chintz pillows and a small table beneath a creased white cloth, and on the table a bottle of red wine, two glasses and a platter of antipasto.

‘Sit sit sit! We’re just in time for the show.’
He flapped about her like a great olive bat holding her chair then opening and pouring the wine before taking a seat and relaxing with a sigh.
‘Er what show?’ she dared ask
‘Nature’s glorious show; seen twice daily, each morning and evening, without fail. I’ve found us box seats.’
Smiling she collected some meat and cheese and a slither of sun-dried tomato and sat back with her wine to enjoy the sunset.

‘When do you move in?’ she asked collecting more food.
‘As soon as you can.’
‘Me? I’m not moving in here I have a perfectly good home where I am thank you.’
‘No as soon as you can unload my car.’
‘Oh right, now I got the idea. You butter me up with romantic red wine and antipasto and sunsets from the balcony just so I can do manual labour for you.’
‘You say it so well.’
‘You’re an Aquarian aren’t you?’ She stated flatly.
‘Why do you say that?’
‘Bugger!’ she hissed to herself. ‘Well come on. As pleasant as all this is your stuff won’t grow legs and move itself.’ she stated sighing and getting up, not sure if she remembered what the back of his car held.
‘Have I done something wrong?’ he asked from his continued recline
‘Dunno, depends on your objective.’ She looked down at him replacing her glass.

Slowly he stood up. Strangely mesmerised she watched him. He caught her wrists and then raised her hands up to his shoulders. She stepped away and he stepped forward smiling that funny little smile all men do when thinking they’re winning. And then his hands found her waist and drew her closer to him as he stepped closer.
‘What is your objective?’ she asked her breath shallow and her tone husky
‘Same as before.’ He replied in a low and husky voice of his own his lips millimetres from hers.
‘Oh?’ She said in a very small voice realising she still had no idea what it was and whether his previous attempt was right and this was wrong or the other way around.
‘To wine you…’ He whispered his nose stroking hers ‘And dine you…’ his nose stroked the other side of hers ‘And ask you to help me move in.’ he finished kissing the tip of her nose and letting her go turning around his usual Oscar Wilde self.

She fell back against the balustrade and would have gone over it had the previous owner not boxed it in with fly wire. Suddenly overwhelmingly fury filled her. He turned to see why she wasn’t laughing and saw her actually trembling.
‘Oh sorry love.’ He laughed coming back to her
‘Don’t you dare!’ she hissed pushing his arms away and he sobered immediately.

Her tone and the steal in her eyes drew a frown on his brow.
‘Em …’
‘Shoosh.’ She stopped him. Covering her face she sucked in a huge breath and then slowly let it out. ‘Right where’s this stuff?’ she stated and walked back through the house.
‘Emma …’
She held up her hand and led the way back to his car. It was empty. Then she rounded on him
‘Take me home Tim.’ She stated quietly.
‘Would you please listen to me woman?’
‘No I won’t. I have heard them all every excuse under the sun! I have been used and tricked and taunted and flat out right told! I highly doubt you would have anything new.’
‘Does our friendship mean that little to you?’
‘It does to you.’
Wordlessly he unlocked the door and helped her into his car.

The trip back was significantly faster as he took the main roads; which was just as well as neither seemed able to speak to the other. Twice Emma angrily dashed tears off her cheeks.
Finally he pulled up outside her door but as she went to get out he sighed.
‘Don’t what?’
‘Don’t hate me. Don’t get out, don’t walk away from this.’ He sighed again and rubbed his nose and eyes with the forefinger of the hand that had supported his head as he drove home. ‘Don’t leave me this way.’

She stayed; her hand on the door handle but not moving, waiting.
‘I like you. I like you so much it scares me. I catch myself thinking about you when I do silly things like trip or hit my thumb with the hammer.’
He dropped his hand closest her from the steering wheel to her leg but not holding her thigh just laying there like a broken thing. She looked at it.
‘I have attempted suicide before. Not once but on a regular basis. I am not the man you can depend on.’
She looked up to him and saw his eyes watching her.
‘Who said I was planning on depending on you?’ she asked simply.
She could have lightened it with quips galore but some how their usual banter was subdued because her feelings had been damaged.
‘Why?’ she asked.
‘Why did I try to kill myself or why didn’t I kiss you?’
‘Both.’ She said in a small voice staring at her own hand fiddling with her bag strap.
‘The same reason. I don’t think I’m worthy.’

She snatched a breath and shot it out just as fast.
‘Would it help if I told you I once swallowed a full pack of Codine?’ she let her bag strap go. ‘That these sores on my arms are because I can’t make the pain inside me go away?’ she pushed the sleeve up showing him her patches of scabs all over her forearm then pulled the sleeve back down to try and stop the temptation to pick them again. ‘You are so much like me it’s scary.’
His hand turned and crept into hers.
‘You are the only person in my life the only person who saw all my junk in my house and just smiled. You said something that I have never heard another person say. “So this is you then?” and you stayed and played and had fun and never mentioned my junk again.’
‘I have a full time job fixing me I can’t fix you too.’
‘That’s the thing.’ she turned to him her hand holding his firmly now and he seemed to smile. ‘You don’t want to fix me.’
‘I never said that. I said I can’t, that’s your job.’
‘Exactly. Every other person in my life has tried to fix me. Not one of them, not a single one, has left it up to me until you.’ She looked down to find both her hands were holding his and that his thumb was doing it’s best to caress hers. ‘I was so happy just to be friends with you because it was what I wanted to do and all you really expected off me. And then … and then …’
‘And then I stuffed it up.’ He said
‘No and then because you didn’t kiss me I realised what … that I really felt … oh I don’t know.’ She let his hand go with one of hers and turned her face into it against the cool window, away from him.
She felt his thumb still caressing hers and waited, enjoying the warmth of him envelop her.
‘That anything we did together would be mutually right?’ he filled in quietly and she flicked her face back to him
‘Yes.’ She sighed.
He lent towards her and she slowly closed the gap. Because he lent further he was slightly below her, his other hand holding the wheel to help him balance, and she smiled down at him as she turned her shoulder to the windscreen.
‘I’m most petrified of hurting you. That I’ve learnt so acutely tonight.’ He said softly as they paused on the brink of taking that next step.
‘So don’t.’ she said quietly and simply, raising her free hand to stroke his face and then with a smile she dropped her lips to his and met his kiss.

That Next Step


Frankston, Australia

  • Artist
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Artist's Description

A bit of a fictional romance between two friends

[no not skik & me lol]

Artwork Comments

  • linaji
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  • lianne
  • adgray
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