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For your reading pleasure here is “The almost-kiss” an extract from Ana’s Diary (the main character)
Sunday 22nd April 2040.
Jasper invited me over to his house for lunch. When I arrived, his mother showed me into the living room and said she’d be back in a minute. Jasper was standing by the long sash windows, looking out over the garden and the pool. He turned as I entered. My breath caught in my throat. I hadn’t seen him for months, and as always his striking good looks made my heart race. I squeezed my fingers together and focused on taking an inventory to remain in control: His sandy blonde hair was longer on the tops and sides than usual, growing out in tiny waves. He appeared rested, calm. The dark rings beneath his eyes had vanished.
‘It’s good to see you, Ana,’ he said, moving across the room, arm raised to present a beautifully wrapped gift. Just the paper was amazing – an intricate gold pattern that reminded me of a Klimt painting. A lump lodged in my throat. I hadn’t been expecting a present. Usually only my father and my best friend Tamsin remember my birthday.
I tried to smile, but my bottom lip quivered. I bit my lips together.
‘It’s beautiful,’ I said.
‘You haven’t opened it.’
I laughed, a kind of raw, throaty laugh. ‘Sorry, I er…’
Jasper smiled. A smile that altered his eyes, making them warm and gentle. I’ve grown so used to their distance that the change was almost alarming. Ever since his brother’s death he’s been broody and unreadable.
I carefully extracted the box from its paper and pinched open the lid. Pink, yellow and red flower petals lay scattered over a book. Their scent filled the air like the soft, lingering perfume of roses just after the rain. I pulled out the piano music. A book of score sheets is a rare thing. I ran my hand over the cover, tears welling as I struggled to hold them back. I didn’t want him to think I was an emotional wreck or some wishy-washy girl who cried at everything.
‘Thank you,’ I said. Eyes still smiling, he raised his hand and twisted a strand of my hair in his fingers. I froze. Jasper had never touched me like that before.
‘You like it?’ he asked.
My skin began to prickle and though I didn’t think it was possible, my heart beat even faster.
‘Yes,’ I said.
‘Sometimes it’s very hard for me to tell what your thinking,’ he said.
I looked down. I could feel the words I wanted to say sticking in my throat. ‘I never know what your thinking,’ I said.
‘You still don’t know why I want to join with you?’
The tips of my ears began to burn. I shrugged.
‘You don’t see yourself very clearly.’ He touched his fingers to my cheek and leant even closer. My heart leapt into my throat. I’d wanted him to kiss me for so long, but now he was going to I was caught off guard. Panic began mounting inside me.
‘You’re sister says you only want to join with me to hurt your father,’ I blurted. Jasper gazed into my eyes. Something shifted and I felt like I’d been pricked. A look of disappointment, exasperation, annoyance? He sat back in his seat, resuming the usual distance between us.
‘And what do you think?’
I could hear annoyance in his voice, mingled with resignation. I could feel my emotions welling up again. Why hadn’t I shut my big mouth and let him kiss me?
‘I think I spend every day surrounded by people looking down their noses at me, people who avoid touching me, people who I’m afraid of getting angry in front of, in case they report me to the Board. I think your sister hates me. Your father would try to stop the joining if he could, and your mother tolerates me because she loves you so much. And all the papers and news stuff says you, it’s because you… because…you know.’
‘Because I’m madly in love with you…’
‘But that’s not true,’ he said.
I felt a frisson of dread. Was he filling in the words I couldn’t/wouldn’t say, or was he confessing?
‘No,’ I whispered.
‘It’s not too late.’
‘To call everything off.’
Fear coiled around my throat and wound down into my chest. ‘Is that what you want?’
Jasper clenched his jaw. ‘You think I’ve stood up to my father and the Board just for the hell of it?’
‘I’m sorry—’ What an idiot. But what else am I to think when you’ve put it off for so long? I brushed fingers under both my eyes. That was talent for you. I’d managed to get us from almost kissing to talking about calling the whole thing off.
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Until next time,