Cougar: Part Two

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Jake

So I’m standing here with flowers. Never done this before. But I can’t stop thinking about her. The feel of her body against mine, the experience of those hands, the curve of her spine… I saw a whole new side to her that day. A side I want to see every time I wake up.

She hasn’t seen me yet. She’s too busy with her clients. Man, she looks sexy in her uniform. Black and pink suits her. I stand in front of the window, admiring the view. That’s when she finally sees me. I wink. Her eyes widen and she puts down the brush. She plasters a smile onto her face and tells the old woman in the chair that she’ll be back in a minute.

She says something to her boss, who looks curiously at me and nods. Kate walks through the shop door, letting out a waft of hair products and heat. “What the hell are you doing here?” She demands. Not the reaction I was after.

I point to the flowers. “Isn’t it obvious?” I grin.

“You know what I mean,” she says, looking around guiltily. Her boss keeps taking side glances at us from within. I’ve never seen Kate look this uncomfortable.

“I’m here to take you out for lunch,” I say. “You can take lunch at one, right? I’m paying…”

She glances at her watch and considers it. “Okay fine, but you’ve got to go away until then. We clear?”

I salute. “Yes ma’am.” She doesn’t seem to see the funny side, as she grabs the flowers and storms off. I watch for a couple of minutes as Kate undoubtedly makes an excuse to her boss as to why I brought her flowers, before I walk away.

I cross the road to the park and find a bench to sit on for the next half hour. It’s oddly peaceful here, despite the rumbles and beeps of the cars along the main road.

I feel calm, away from the stifling neatness of mum’s house. But even here the wild is tamed; the unruly grass is clipped, the flowers are dictated to grow in certain places. I feel claustrophobic, even out here in the open.

The kid’s playground lies deserted in the distance. The crumbling, rusty metal frame, red and yellow chipped paint, chains broken and coppered. I remember when that paint was fresh, when mum and dad used to take me to the swings every weekend. Those days are long gone now. So is dad. Now I’d much rather be in the pub. So would mum.

A Yorkshire terrier runs over to me and starts sniffing my shoe. “Hey little guy,” I say and scratch behind his ears. His owner, a pretty young girl with a gorgeous tartan skirt, walks over and begins batting her eyelashes at me.

Instantly I sit back and put my headphones on, ignoring her until she goes away.

The world is made so much more interesting with music. A slow, elegant tune will make even the sunniest day tinted with cold sorrow. A quick, funky beat will make me see something good in any situation.

I’m listening to a happy tune when Kate walks shyly up the path towards me. I turn off my iPod and stand up to greet her.

“Sorry, lost track of time,” I admit.

“It’s okay…” she begins awkwardly. “Sorry if I seemed a little harsh earlier.”

“It’s cool,” I grin. I’m just relieved she agreed to meet me in the first place. But I don’t tell her that. Keep up the façade; today I’m the relaxed, awesome Jake. Not the cowardly, pathetic Jake who just wants to run and hide from this gorgeous woman.

We stand around silently for a moment. How can we be so embarrassed with each other when we’ve shared something so intimate?

I grab her hand. She pulls away as if to protest, then decides against it. She feels tense. We set off down the path at a casual pace. A jogger stares at us as he runs past, and Kate hangs her head.

“Good day at work?” I ask, trying to take her mind off things.

“It’s been alright,” she says vaguely, and we fall silent again.

“Guys, guys, look at that MILF!”

We turn to see a group of boys a bit younger than me, hoods up, pointing and laughing at us. They start making meowing noises, and I hear the words “cougar” and “dirty slut” hurled in our direction.

I look at Kate. She looks as if she’s about to cry. So I grab her arm, pull her to a stop and kiss her. Fiercely. Instantly it’s as if we’re alone. As if nobody else matters. She melts into my arms and we protect each other from the unwarranted rain of hatred.

The meowing turns into retching noises, but the boys soon pass.  Dickheads.

Kate’s shaking though, as if the cold words pierced her skin.

“Don’t be put off by them,” I plead.

“How can they be so horrible about people they know nothing about?” she asks angrily. Her fists clench. I put my arm around her, and walk her slowly in the direction of the pub.

People stare at us in here too, but I ignore them. I guide Kate to the bar and order our drinks. The bartender looks at us and asks me for ID. I feel Kate cringe next to me. This is going so well…

I show him my provisional and he studies it for a while before walking off to pour the drinks. “Aren’t you going to ask the lady for her ID?”  I shout after him angrily. “She looks shifty to me. Barely even eighteen!” He looks at me like I’ve just asked him to shave my balls.

But Kate laughs. It’s the first time I’ve heard her laugh since before her breakup. She looks gorgeous. I smile at her, pay for the drinks and follow her to a table in the centre of the room.

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