The noise of my own knuckles rapping against the door shook me out of my daze. I had the sudden urge to dive into the shrubbery that bordered the house, but I hesitated and then it was too late: the door opened and I saw her face change when she recognised me. I closed my eyes: she was going to come down on me like a ton of bricks.
She stepped outside, eyes darting left and right, quickly pulling the door ajar behind her.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” she hissed.
“Is he here?” I asked.
“No but he will be any minute.” She craned her neck to glance at the drive then she pinned her eyes on me, demanding an explanation.
“I need to talk,” I said.
“Well shit Matt, you should have texted me.”
“I did. Your phone is off.”
“Fuck,” she mouthed at the sky, then she bit her lip as she always did when she was angry with herself. “Alright, look, meet me by the school in half an hour. And for god’s sake get your car out of the drive, now!”
It didn’t take her half and hour to turn up. I barely had the time to sit and take two drags of my cigarette, when I heard hurried steps down the gravel path and I saw her approach, her arms wrapped tightly around her middle over the coat she’d hastily worn over her jeans and t-shirt. She looked cold and concerned, but no longer angry.
“I’m sorry about before,” she said while still a few steps away. “You freaked me out. He could have been there. You know what he’s like.”
“She cheated on me,” I said.
She paused for the time it took me to take another drag.
“How do you know?” she asked.
“She told me.”
“She told you?” She inhaled through her teeth and tsked twice.
I gave her an icy look.
“What?” she said defensively. “Everybody knows it’s never a good idea to tell.”
“It’s over and she wanted to come clean. She still wants to be with me.”
“What did you do?”
“That’s what you get for telling,” she said condescendingly, but then she sighed, and straddled the wooden bench to sit in front of me. She waited a while for me to look up and speak, and when I didn’t she lowered her face to search for my eyes.
“Hey,” she said softly. “Tell me where it hurts.”
I was expecting to be asked who he was, how long it'd lasted, how she broke it to me, all of those facts and details that swam in a vortex in my head. Instead she was asking me about the vortex in my chest.
“I hate that she lied to me. I hate that she did it all behind my back while I didn’t suspect a thing.”
“Would you rather she’d done it in front of you?”
I looked at her disapprovingly.
“Sorry,” she said. “What else?”
“I thought she loved me more than that.”
Her eyes widened. “She loves you, Matt. You must know that, surely.”
“Not enough not to fall in love with someone else.”
“It might not have anything to do with how much she loves you. It might not have anything to do with you. Love happens, Matt. Sometimes we can’t stop it, we should be able to help it, but we can’t.”
“So I should forgive her?”
“No, I’m just saying maybe you should widen your perspective a little, for your own good. It might make it easier for you to get over this feeling of injustice. Maybe she fought as hard as she could. Maybe she was wracked with guilt every minute she spent with him.”
“I hope she was. She should have been.”
I was still looking down, trailing my nails on a piece of graffiti etched into the seat in the space between my legs, but I knew she was rolling her eyes.
“She came back to you, right?"
“Are you saying I should take her back?”
“I’m not saying anything. I’m just suggesting you don’t make that decision out of a hurt ego.”
“What if it happens again?”
“It might. Then again, it can happen to anybody. It could happen to you.”
“It would never happen to me.”
“Just because it’s never happened it doesn’t mean it couldn’t.”
“I am not a cheater.”
To stress my point I looked straight into her eyes, and for the first time in the whole exchange I truly saw her: twenty years had passed since we used to make out on this very seat. Her smile lines were more pronounced now, but to me she was still the seventeen-year-old girl I used to love then.
“Alright,” she said. “Let’s say you meet a woman.”
She lifted herself just enough to close the distance between us, and slowly, very slowly, she raised a hand to caress the hair just above my ear.
“Let’s say she is beautiful, intelligent, sexy in every way.”
She cocked her head slightly, staring languidly into my eyes as her other hand came to rest on my open thigh.
“Let’s say she falls in love with you. She wants you, she chases you, she makes you feel like a king.”
She trailed her fingers down along my jawline and her face got closer. Her eyes were now fixed on my mouth, her breath warm on my lips as she continued in barely a whisper.
“Until one day, you’re alone, and she's so close, and she looks at you with such adoring hunger… closer… and closer…”
She brushed her lips against mine teasingly, once, twice, and on the third I closed my eyes and she kissed me. Slowly, softly, her lips fondled mine. She tasted me, and I posed no resistance, because I was no longer there: I was transported back twenty years, and I was kissing my first love, my best friend, my soulmate.
She pulled back gently, allowing me the time to return to the present moment.
“I think I made my point,” she said, caressing my face. She smiled and got to her feet.
“I have to go,” she said. “I’ve left dinner on the stove and I need to get back.”
I nodded, feeling lightheaded but altogether calm.
“You’ll keep in touch, right?” she asked.
She started down the path, but after a couple of steps she stopped and turned around, shaking her head.
“I still can’t believe she told you."
I chuckled. “What makes you such an expert, anyway?" I said. "You’ve never been cheated on.”
“And you have never cheated.”
A sly smile stretched slowly across her face.
“Haven’t I?” she said simply, then she turned, and walked away.