The smell of her perfume mixed in enticingly with the scent of vanilla that gently wafted through the car on the back of the heat blasting from the air vents. It was a decade old familiar smell, like Sunday roast at your parent’s house, or the smell of fresh carrot cake at your gran’s. The wind whipped angrily around the car; rocking it slightly along the long and empty tarmac snake I was driving across. I tightened my hand on the steering wheel, focusing on the lumps and bumps of the leather and not the smell that had my heart aching.
Anna sat quietly, her hands resting on the plaid crease of her modest skirt, humming gentle to herself to some crap that was playing on the radio. The gently whirr of her vocal cords lit up the car as if I could se the notes themselves dancing along the inside of the windshield, the dashboard their private stage.
“Could you turn the radio off, please? That song will be stuck in my head all day if you don’t,” she said, her voice a soft shade of pleasant. Her words intermingled with the smells of vanilla and perfume and made my head spin slightly as I took my eyes from the road, just for a second, to switch off the radio that was beginning to annoy her so. She would never turn the radio off, residue of her strict upbringing. The driver is in control of the car at all times – that included the radio.
“Thank you,” she half whispered, her eyes cast out the window.
We were driving along a road that ran parallel to the shore. The vast, almost dizzying, expanse of black, diamond ocean shone and glistened beatifically under the rising moon light that graced its surface. The sea was a beast, at least I believed so, that would lure men in rickety rowing boats out on the promise of fish; only to turn violent and murderous and drag them deep beneath the waves. My father had nearly died once, on a rickety fishing boat that was easily fooled by an afternoon of calm water, but had been lucky and been saved by a passing cruise liner. The Varna Anna, I had always taken it as a sign that the name Anna would bring me great fortune. I had been right. Until I had thrown it all away.
“You didn’t have to do this you know,” Anna broke the reverie that was clouding my mind and distracting my heart. “Pick me up, I mean. The rescue people would have collected me.” She said the words, but she knew I would have picked her up no matter what. I would have faced the vastness of all the oceans just to battle the tides to be at her side.
“It’s-,” I had to cough and clear my throat, “It’s no trouble. I enjoy the drive.”
It was only a half-lie. I did enjoy driving, the open road beneath the rubber of my wheels. But if I was honest, my phone ringing that night, only a few hours ago now, had been a siren’s call to my breaking soul. I couldn’t say anymore, the tears welling up behind my eyes. The hot, palpable feeling of loss desperately trying to escape and show her that I knew how foolish I had been and how unbearably sorry I was for what I had done.
I met Anna in the library down Main St almost eleven years ago. Her plain appearance and humble demeanour would have rendered her all but invisible to me had I not spilled my coffee on her cardigan. The obviously hand knitted, pink wool began to stain almost as soon as it had touched it. But she had looked at me with not an ounce of disdain or irritation; she just raised her eyes to meet mine and laughed, “I was looking for an excuse to knit another.” The chime of her laugh was like bells in my head and the fire in her eyes, an untempered steel of emotion, quickly set ablaze my body. It wasn’t just the erection that told me I loved her, it was the quickening pace of my, already caffeine powered, heart that told me I had juts met my maker – and her name was Anna.
“Please don’t cry, not again, Michael,” she pleaded somberly. Just the sound of my name escaping her lips fired a hundred thousand memories of a hundred different lovemakings and how she would pant that same word. But I had to ‘man-up’, I had tried crying, tried begging, tried threatening and everything else a desperate man attempts to do when he finds a crown and melts it for spoons. All I could do was open my soul and let the remorse coarse freely out into the world. But I knew she would never change her mind. Not ever.
I loved her more than anything else I could ever imagine loving. We had no children and had been married for only three years after being together for seven, and everything was perfect – until it wasn’t. I had a wife who loved me, a home that sheltered me and a fridge that fed me but still, a new piece of ass in the office, Evelyn Wheyridge, was all it took for me to fuck up my life and shattered the perfect portrait of the average mans dream. A drunken H.R. meeting between just her and myself had turned into a gratuitous orgy of debauchery, bad judgment and lust. I could barely stand but I came in less than three minutes – one for every year I had been committed, before God, to my wife. Three minutes was all it took to throw away a good woman and cut away my heart.
“We’re here,” she announced as I drove up in front of her parents house. She had hated having to move back home, an ‘unequalled retreat of humiliation’ she had called it, and I hated putting her there. I realized, as she popped open the door using the chrome handle nestled in the door, that I may never see her again. I didn’t know why, there was no reason to suppose she would be going anywhere far, but something in my half-scarred heart told me to say goodbye.
So I did.
“Good bye,” I muttered to the creases of her modest, plaid skirt, as I tightened my grip once again and focused on the ridges digging into my palms, and inhaled as deeply as I could, the last precious whiffs of a decade worth of memories laced in her perfume.
She would never again by my wife; but she would always be my girl.