Sunday, 27 March 2016

The first move.

They sort of knew of each other already. They'd been moving in peripheral circles for months; friends of friends occasionally mentioned them in conversation and they saw each other on the train, in the gym and occasionally at bars thus making it utterly impossible for them to introduce themselves.

Kate already felt stalkerish for sneaking extra glances when he was straining through his weight training, neither could break the unwritten social law that dictates silence on a commute and although she hoped he'd introduce himself at a bar, Mark couldn't bring himself to approach a stranger.

And so they continued - each convinced the other had no interest and neither willing enough to put themselves out there and risk rejection.

Thankfully, as their friends were oblivious, the universe became irritated with their mutual stupidity and threw them together. At a bar one evening, Kate had retreated to the ladies for a little secretive social media surfing. In this particular establishment, the toilets were upstairs and as she descended, an impatient man pushed past her going downstairs. Taken by surprise and slightly precarious in her heels, she stumbled and as she regained her balance she reached out and grabbed the nearest solid object. It was Mark.

He hadn't seen anything to explain her sudden assault so, startled, he stopped and stared enquiringly at her. "Er, can I help you?"

She realised she was clutching at the fabric covering the rather firm expanse of his chest. Thanks to his penchant for wearing t-shirts at the gym that became see-through and clung to him when he drenched them with sweat, she already had a perfect visual of what was going on under there and her hand flexed involuntarily. Blushing vividly she snatched her hand back as though it burned and muttered incoherent apologies through a tight throat.

She tried to rush away and instead fell, compounding her mortification as she landed in an ungainly heap several steps below. He immediately retrieved the scattered belongings that fell from her bag and she anxiously checked her phone to ensure it had suffered no hurt whilst thanking him profusely and trying not to look him in the eye. As she was also trying to avoid ogling his chest, arms and, now she was seated, his thighs, she ended up staring at his ear lobe, wishing she had some witty observation, intelligent remark or in fact any three syllables to string together that might let him know she was in any sense admirable.

Kate stood hastily, apologising again and he offered his hand to help her. "Are you sure you're OK to stand? Did you hurt your ankle at all?"

"Sorry, thanks, no I'm fine. I'm fine, thanks. Sorry. I didn't mean to... I'm really sorry. Are you OK?" She was highly conscious of her hand in his, but didn't want to seem rude by snatching it away, so instead let it remain, deliberately relaxing it so he didn't feel obliged to maintain the contact.

"I'm great, and," as he spoke he looked down at his chest and smiled. "My shirt seems equally fine. We're very resilient."

The reminder of how he'd felt under her hand upgraded the temperature in her cheeks from minorly incendiary to full-on napalm and after a brief, horrified glance into his eyes she fixed her gaze avidly on that earlobe, noting that his thick stubble ended naturally just below his jawline, leaving the skin on his neck soft and smooth. The sounds of someone new ascending the stairs alerted them seconds before they appeared and prevented her from having to form a coherent response. The new arrival glanced incuriously at them and she was able to form a polite smile as he passed.

It didn't last long. Mark, in an effort to make space on the stairs, stepped closer to her and, like a startled rabbit, she gasped and stared at him. He was close enough now that his scent overwhelmed the stale air of the stairwell and her sudden inhalation meant it hit her in full force. It was woody, spicy, masculine and carried a hint of plain old soap. He went to step back and as he released her hand, it flew out and caught his waist, gently urging him to stay.

"Resilient or not, I owe you for rescuing my purse. Can I buy you a drink? As a thank you." Her hasty justification amused him and his lips twitched slightly.

"That sounds nice, but I'm the designated driver tonight."

"Oh." She hesitated, wondering if he was trying to hint her off before deciding to go all guns blazing. "Well, honestly, I prefer to get to know someone over a quiet dinner instead of at a noisy bar and I've been thinking for a while that I really want to get to know you. Do you eat?"

His surprise was obvious, but he quickly took up her offer, suggesting a curry house nearby. They exchanged numbers and agreed a date before saying goodbye. As he turned to leave, she hastily leaned forward and brushed a kiss against his neck. He looked down at her oddly and she smiled, wiping away the smudge of lipstick she'd marked him with.

"I'd have kissed your cheek, but I'm not sure I'd be able to wipe any excess lipstick out of your stubble."

He rubbed his jaw, grimacing slightly. "Yeah, I've been told it's a bit much."

"Oh, no!" her objection was instantaneous and heartfelt. "I really like it! Bring it with you on Wednesday and I'll prove it." As she spoke she stepped away from him and smiled before sashaying away. He carried on up the stairs and, when she was sure he couldn't see or hear her she punched the air triumphantly and did an excited little victory dance before hurrying back to her friends.