I have written quite a few first-meeting scenes. This one is one of my two favourites. And it was the first one in an important story.
It's not even half past eight in the morning and although I've had a good night at the hotel, I'm still a bit woozy from the eight hour drive yesterday and the early start today.
The landing is announced. Suddenly my tiredness is gone, my back straightens, my heartbeat picks up, my breathing deepens. The sounds of a working airport, the colours, the shapes, the people milling around, all the external stimuli melt into the background, not disappearing but weaving themselves into an out-of-focus shimmering whole. My focus turns to my body.
I can feel the shoes I am wearing, uncomfortable platform sandals with four inch heels. I can feel the load concentrated in the balls of my feet, a bit painful, the arch freer than normal, all that making me stand taller and straighter but more precarious.
The denim of my skirt, thick but soft, brushing my knees, closer fitting on my thighs and hips. The stocking tops, tight against my skin, the nylon stretched over my legs, seams under my toes. Silk of my knickers on my buttocks and pubis, soft and slick, its cool caress on my labia. The corset laced from just below the small of my back to just below my shoulder blades; not very tight but tight enough to smooth the curve of my flaring hips, to make me aware of how my breasts raise and fall as the air moves in and out of my lungs, to make my heartbeat resonate under my constrained ribs. My nipples, erect, brushing against the cotton lining, harder than usual, darker too, the flush spreading beyond the areolas, the arousal more general than sexual but with the sexual bubbling under the surface, only the skin away. The satin lining of my jacket on my bare arms, the crinkle of leather against leather as I play with my car keys in my pocket. The pulse in the wrists, behind my knees, in my clit, my temples, under my collar bones.
I breathe in deeply, flex my fingers, lick my lips.
I'm not quite sure he'll be here. I'm not sure I'll recognise him. I'm not sure he'll recognise me, although he certainly has more chance than I do.
People are coming out now, and I'm grateful for the tinted glasses I put on earlier to protect my pale eyes against the unseasonably bright sun of the late autumn.
And then I see him, and I'm sure - almost sure - completely sure - that it's him.
I stay in place, looking at him through my dark glasses, my attention shifted again, the background still fuzzy but my focus entirely outwards now, my eyes fixed on the tall, slim guy with short dark hair, looking younger than what I know his years to be; walking out of the gate, slowing, almost stopping to scan the field.
He seems cool enough and yet there is a jaggedy edge there, not just for obvious reasons, a highly-strung core under a composed exterior, energy with a desperate twist. Can I really read this from seeing somebody walk twenty steps across an airport hall? I shrug. Probably not. I'm imagining it, projecting the him-in-my-head onto the real man getting closer to me this very minute.
It doesn't really matter, though, or it will stop mattering very soon, here and almost-now.
I still can't quite believe it, the imaginary lover from the imaginary playground, unimaginably here, in flesh and blood; now walking towards me across the concourse, now standing in front of me, a slight smile in the corners of his mouth.
I smile too, but remain silent. The words are gone, not lost but receded to the back of my mind. I can feel electric shimmers crawling over my skin. My hands, now out of my pockets, dry and warm, supple, tingling, ready. My lips, flushed swollen.
“M?” he says, eventually, after what seemed hours but was a second, maybe two.
I nod but stay silent, reach out to his face with my hand. My fingers somewhere between his jawline and his cheekbone, my thumb on his lips, running slowly back and forth between them until they part under my touch.
He breathes deeply, something between a sigh and a moan.
My fingers slide down his neck. I'm smiling, looking straight into his eyes though he doesn't know it because I still have my sunglasses on, my hand pressing down, my head moving in a slight nod as the pressure increases; he's looking down at the floor, at my red-painted toes.
“Here. Now,” I say.
He hesitates for a moment, the moment gets longer and I think I've blown it. I think he'll look up, step away, we'll talk, I'll ask him about the flight, he'll answer, we'll get coffee, discuss immigration checks, customs, in-flight entertainment; the background will get into focus, the blade will lose its edge.
I leave my right hand on his shoulder for another second and step closer. So close that we are almost touching each other; reach with my left hand to his right wrist, to the thick black string tied loosely around it, my fingertips brushing his skin, resting briefly there. I tug lightly, twisting it twice until it digs into his skin.
And then, led by an impulse alien even to myself, I take a step back, then another one; remove my right hand from his shoulder and with just a small swing, I slap his face, fast and hard, hard enough to make his head reel, as much from the impact as from the suddenness of it.
“Now. Here,” I repeat, a movement of my head indicating what I expect.
And then he does the imaginable but unbelievable and drops to his knees, bends down and kisses my feet; here, now, his lips dry and hot on my toes, left first then the right one, then the thin nylon covering the instep between the straps; his breath now damp and warm on my skin.
There are people around us, mostly obliviously busy on their way but some slowing down or even stopping to glance then shift their gaze away, a group of teenagers is giggling, but all sounds and movements are flat and muted, coming from afar, and all I am really aware of is his kneeling at my feet in the middle of the arrival hall, bang between the WH Smith newsagent and the information desk, at almost 9am in the morning; the finger marks blooming pink on his cheek; here, now.
He straightens up, his eyes still down, still on his knees, and I lean down, touch his shoulder again.
“Get up, J,” I say.
The normal reasserts itself, the background sounds and objects and people emerge from the opalescent blend and come back into focus; I takes my glasses off and look at him directly. He looks back, fixing my gaze, his eyes dark, his pupils dilated, and the intensity of that stare is such that I bursts out laughing, because there is nothing else to do; not hysterical and not delirious but not far off either of those.
“Let's go. It's a long drive.”