Janet Pywell ellie BravoI can’t pretend that the next few days are easy. After the bliss on Sunday afternoon; making love with Maria, my life has plunged downhill faster than an Alpine skier. It has gone from bad to worse, or as my father would say, from Guatemala to Guatapeor.

Monday was Bank Holiday and I was home alone, and I have spent the past two days closeted in the boardroom. Simon came back from America and so John, Stuart, Liam and I have been dealing with the logistics and strategies for all the existing and new contracts and services that we are now providing to our clients.
It is Wednesday and four o’clock, and we are with our new client Mickey Bleu, a restaurant owner and chef extraordinaire. A black Haitian with wide red lips, a flat nose and eyes the size of horse chestnuts. She wears a low cut bright red, yellow and green dress with a matching turban. She has a voice as deep as the ocean, a cleavage as brown as the Grand Canyon, and a mouth filled with even, white teeth.
It’s as if the boardroom walls are breathing. This woman radiates energy and I’m clearly not the only one in the room attracted by her magnetic charm. John’s mouth hangs open. He stares hypnotically at her heaving breasts that are expanding and contracting as she speaks.
She is beautiful and speaks with a slow rumble.
“Moving from Galway has been a big step for the family but I think my deli restaurant beside the Ulster Hall will do well. The location is perfect. It’s in a trendy and popular part of town and I think we could do well.”
John stares at her unblinking.
“The food will be simple but filled with spices from my Caribbean homeland – fiery and fierce like its people.” She chuckles and raises her chest as she speaks. “We know about hardship. We know all about pain and loss and suffering. My country was devastated. Three and a half million people were affected by the earthquake. Over two hundred thousand died, four thousand schools were destroyed and at one stage over one and a half million people were living in camps. If the storms and flooding weren’t bad enough there was an outbreak of Cholera in October 2010…”
She shakes her head. “I fed as many as I could. We requested more food parcels. Families were devastated. Children were orphaned…”
Simon is visibly moved. He strokes his cheek and his pale grey eyes become distant.
It is almost five o’clock. I am torn by her tragic tale as much I am desperate to leave the boardroom to see Maria before she goes home. But it is Simon who suddenly throws my world into turmoil and calls Maria into the boardroom to give an overview of the accounting procedures.
I think he is enthralled with Mickey Bleu and wants Maria to meet her.
Just the sight of Maria entering the room causes my throat to constrict and I hide a smile. When she sits down she tilts her head and grins at Mickey, but she doesn’t look at me, and I am filled with the memory of kissing her swan-like neck.
I watch her fingers flutter as she speaks and I am reminded of how they caressed me only a few days ago. I recall their light, sensual touch and how they left a trail of goosebumps on my skin. I think of the small mole she has on the top of her thigh, the scar from Lily’s caesarean birth and her soft voice explaining why they never had more children.
Suddenly Maria looks at me, and there is a smile around her charcoal eyes when she leaves the room a few minutes later.
After Mickey Bleu has gone I have one final meeting with Mark Bowman to review the ITG project. He is a slim Glaswegian with a mop of thick hair brushed across his forehead that he continually smoothes down with the palm of his hand. He is efficient and we work well together but it is late when we are done and I am exhausted and frustrated.
It is my second night working late.
I return to my office to find Maria has left a sandwich on my desk but I can’t eat it. I check my emails. My back is aching so I yawn and stretch. In the quiet of my office, I imagine Maria at home with Lily, eating dinner, watching television and going to bed. She has told me about the routines in her life. She has also told me of her fears, joys and loves.
I dial her mobile.
“Hi,” she says.
“Are you alone?”
“Are you OK?”
“Sort of.”
“I’m thinking of you,” I say softly.
“Thanks for phoning.” As she hangs up I hear the smile in her voice.
I am satisfied yet empty. Pleased to have heard her voice yet dissatisfied at not being able to speak properly.
I grab the keys to the Harley and my helmet. In the street, the air is cool on my face. Curry from the Indian takeaway on the corner lingers in the air making my stomach retch. I cannot face food.
My stomach is knotted and my lips are dry.
Jenny’s words form in my head. Don’t get involved with anyone. Don’t get involved with a married woman. You’re too vulnerable!
But it may be too late. I need her. I think I am in love.
What have I done?