An old story, written from a different perspective.
When people discuss the approach of dusk, it is often described in one of two days: the gradual shading in of evening, the passing of a day in a fashion that is imperceptible even while you are watching it – or, the dramatic change from light to day much like pulling a slate of sheet rock across the sky.
The darkness that fell on the small town of Jacobs was neither of these. Darkness came down like rain, a cessation of light in hazy scratches drawn across the sky, in some places pooling into tiny black lakes, and in other running in thin lines down the street like run-off from a painter’s brush.
My name is Josephine.
The first time I saw Mr. Desmond, I thought it accidental.
I was holding a rose between my fingers. Its soft petals of bright red had an almost hypnotizing affect on me. The mid-afternoon breeze caused the petals to rustle and I teased them lightly with my fingertips; they felt like satin against my skin, a sweet sensation followed by a rather unexpected pain as my fingers drifted too low and caught on a sharp thorn.
Startled, I let the rose slip my fingers.
While bending over to retrieve it, I caught a glimpse, just at the edge of my vision, of a man in dark green and black. Something about him caught my interest. It wasn't his face, which most often catches my attention, nor his eyes, which are one of my great weaknesses. No, it was something in the way he held himself, a solidity of confidence as he crossed the street opposite the flower stand I stood beside. I turned towards the street to get a better look, but the swelling lunch crowd swept away all trace of him. Or … almost all trace; there was an indelible path woven through the milling people, as if people were shifting in some Jungian way around a single person.
Curious, I followed him into the crowd.
My next glimpse of him was more deliberate. He had paused at a street corner to light a cigarette. The silver of his lighter flashed in the evening sun, and the way in which he took that first drag – as if his entire focus was on that single action – stopped me in my tracks.
It gave me an opportunity to actually look at him. Dark black hair atop a face that would be considered serious in business room, but on a street-corner appeared more like concentrated intent. Not overly tall, nor noticeably short, his clothes rested comfortable on his frame. Not an easy feat – wearing a black sports jacket hanging over dark brown slacks on a mid-summer afternoon – but one he could carried off quite well.
I stood watching the cars rush past him at the intersection; it appeared to me that he wasn’t there waiting to cross but waiting on…what? I was so absorbed in studying him, that it took me a moment to realize he was looking back at me.
Too startled to be embarrassed, I just stared back at him. I lost him a moment later in the dizzying speed of the cars flashing across the intersection. I sighed, shaking the day-dream from my head.
I could have followed him further, but I followed my hunger instead. I knew well the food served at numerous street cafes, but I took my time in browsing through their culinary offerings, I was well on my way to forgetting the intriguing stranger, when I felt a hand lightly brush my shoulder. I turned from a café menu, to find myself face to face with the man I had followed.
“Did you drop this?” He asked, holding aloft a rose I recognized as the one I had held earlier.
“That….I….” I paused to pull my thought together, “Yes, I did.”
He smiled, "May I join you for lunch?”
Ten minutes later saw us sitting at a small round table in the courtyard of the café. Other then sharing names (he shared his last, I, my first) we had yet to establish any meaningful conversation. “So…Mr. Desmond. What brings you to the small town of Jacobs? I don’t believe I’ve seen you before.”
“Ah, yes.” He waved the young waitress over, glancing to her name-tag, “Malory. What a beautiful name.” The girl’s blush almost reached her eyes. “A cup of your strongest coffee please, for me. And for Josephine here…”
“Ice tea. No sugar, please.” I realized I was nervously tapping my fingers on the cool glass of the table and stilled my hand. Mr. Desmond had set the rose upon the glass surface of the table, and I distracted myself by rolling it over gently, feeling the smooth green stem between my fingers.
“I am here to meet some people. Three, in fact.” said Mr. Desmond.
“No…well, not exactly.’ He chuckled. “They’ve never really met me before, which would make the prospects of friendship rather difficult at the moment.”
I like to consider myself a rather sharp person, but I found myself confused, “I’m not sure I understand…”
“No, of course you don’t.” His words eased into the space my confusion had left. He raised his left hand, holding up three fingers, “Mrs. Lovell.” One finger down. “Angela Beckett,” The second finger folded in. “And Josephine.” The last finger went down. He spoke each name like he was sharing a secret with an intimate of his. I hardly knew the man, yet he acted with an assumed familiarly that left me more then a little uncomfortable.
I gathered my wits, “But to what purpose do you want to meet…”
His long fingers lifted the rose from the table. “It’s what I do. Meeting people.” He gently draw one of the petals from the rose, resting it atop of finger like an offering.
A moment of silence. “Why are you telling me this?”
Eyes the color of grey skies regarded me in silence. His finger tilted slightly and the petal slid clear of his finger, tumbling gracefully to rest atop my hand like an angel kiss.
“Because it is what you want.” I felt his eyes on my skin, as if the weight of his gaze was something physical, “Your capture will be the easiest, because it will be your own curiosity that drives you there.” He leaned forward, resting the rose on the mirrored surface between them. “You will be here tomorrow, and the day after, to hear each step of their seduction. Until we reach a point, the climax of the story, where you want to know,” the pause was a smile, small, controlled, “…how I take them. And you will know the price for the story.”
There was nothing left but silence for me. I was unable to speak while he carefully removed his wallet and placed several crisp bills on top of the table between the wine-glass and his untouched brandy. I wasn’t even able to watch him as he turned and left the café.
I did know the price. Worse. I feared I might be willing to pay for it.
I felt the first drop of rain.
One thought on “Meeting Mr. Desmond”
As always, I am left breathless and wanting more. How is it that you can make every single word you write bleed sex and desire? Of course, they say “write what you know”… apparently you know more than most can speak of in a lifetime. Thank you for sharing with us.