My affair with Noémie is over. I ended it a week ago. She wanted more than I was willing to give. I’m throwing my annual summer ball. I watch the guests milling about, searching for the woman who will replace Noémie. And there she is standing alone in a very colorful mermaid dress which flatters her gorgeous figure. She doesn’t have the elegance nor the sophistication of the other women but she’s captivating. Just looking at her gets my pulse racing.
I stare at her for a long time. She notices me and returns my gaze. I approach her. “Hello,” I say when I’m standing in front of her. I can’t stop staring. She’s exquisite. Being this close to her is a bit unnerving. My heart and body are reacting very strongly to her. To date, no woman has ever had such an effect on me.
“Hello,” she replies. “I know about you.”
Taken aback, I inquire. “What is it that you think you know about me?”
“I know that you’re a womanizer. You like to sleep with women, amuse yourself with them until you tire of them and then you discard them. I stay away from men like you.”
“Then, why did you come here?”
“Just like the Queen of Sheba went to Israel to see if King Solomon was as wise as everyone claimed that he was, I wanted to see the man whom so many women claim is irresistible even though he’s a cad.”
“And what is your conclusion?”
“Well, I can feel a piece of the pull of your magnetism and it’s very strong.”
“Wait until you feel all of it.”
She laughs. “I’m not going to let you tempt me.”
“Would you think that I’m tempting you if I offer to take you on a tour of the palace?”
“And what happens when the tour is over? Do we somehow end up in your bedroom?”
“Only if you want us to.” She’s exasperating and exciting. It’s driving me mad that she’s resisting me. By now, another woman would be putty in my hands. This one’s a challenge. “What’s your name?”
“Bethanie, do you have a man?”
“I wouldn’t be here talking to you if I did.”
“I’m relieved to hear that.”
“Why? Do you think you have a chance with me because I don’t have a man?”
“A man can always hope, can’t he?”
“I suppose so.” She opens her handbag and takes out a compact mirror. After checking her face, she closes it and returns it to her bag. She looks at me and inquires, “Well, Mr. Abboud, are you going to take me on that tour or not?”
My hands tightens into fists as I fight to keep my composure. She arouses conflicting emotions in me. I’m irritated and inflamed. I want to skip the tour and take her straight to bed but I know that she wouldn’t go for that. She’s resisting me. “Certainly,” I said, smiling. “Shall we?”
I take her on the tour. She’s very impressed. Afterwards, we join the rest of my guests. Dinner follows. I’m trying to be a gracious and engaging host but my mind and eyes keep straying over to her. She’s sitting between the Italian count and a foreign film actress. The count is flirting with her and that infuriates me.
After dinner we all retire to the ballroom. I dance with the film actress while Bethanie dances with the Count. I watch them. When the dance is over, I escort the actress off the floor and then I make my way over to Bethanie and the Count. “May I cut in?”
The Count smiles. “Certamente,” he says before he excuses himself.
Without saying a word, I take Bethanie in my arms and twirl her around on the dance floor. We dance several dances until she says, after glancing at her watch, “Oh, my, it’s almost mid-night. It’s time for this Cinderella to leave the Ball.” She extricates herself from me and walks off the dance floor.
I follow her. “Do you really have to leave now?”
“Yes. It has been a long day and I’m tired. Thank you for a lovely evening, Mr. Abboud.”
“Please call me Ferran. Do you have transportation?”
“Yes. I drove. I really must go now. Good night, Ferran.”
“Wait! When can I see you again?”
“That’s up to you.”
“Will you have dinner with me tomorrow evening?”
“Sorry, but tomorrow’s out of the question.”
“What about the following evening?”
She shakes her head. “I have an engagement.”
“With a man?”
“No, with my parents. It’s their wedding anniversary.”
“When are you free to have dinner with me?” I’m getting desperate now.
“Friday evening. Here’s my number.” She hands me a card. “Goodnight, Ferran.” And she quickly walks away.
I hold onto the card as if it were precious gold. The Ball ends after two in the morning. I’m exhausted but I can’t sleep. All I can think about is Bethanie and how much I’m looking forward to seeing her again.
Friday evening finally arrives and we have dinner at my favorite Middle Eastern restaurant. I’m so thrilled to see her again, I find myself acting like a lovesick school boy. After dinner, we go for a drive and then, I take her home. We began to see each other regularly after that.
Today marks a year since we have been together. This is by far, the longest relationship I have ever had. She makes me happy but always at the back of my mind, I can’t help wondering what I would do if she decides that she doesn’t want to be my lover any more. The thought terrifies me. I don’t want to lose her. That’s when I realize that I’ve met my match. I’m at her mercy. She can end things between us at any time.
I plan to ask her to marry me this evening at dinner. I don’t know what I will do if she turns me down. I don’t know what I will do if I can’t spend the rest of my life with the woman I have fallen hopelessly in love with. Perhaps, after breaking so many hearts, I will finally get my comeuppance.