At first sight

My last couple of posts have been rather serious. Time for a change! Isn’t it strange how life-changing experiences can happen when we least expect them? Jonathan, a PhD student at Imperial College, was hardly a party animal, Academic supervisors aren’t noted for hosting orgies. And yet, by the end of the evening, Jonathan’s world has been turned upside-down.

Party buffet for story 170526

It was a good party. There was appetising food and a choice of wine, cask beer, or any number of soft drinks. The music was cheerful and not too loud; guests could converse without needing to shout at each other. As he queued at the table for a portion of fresh salmon salad, Jonathan idly wondered how his host had persuaded a live band to play at less than full volume. He would stay for an hour, long enough not to appear impolite, and then go back to his flat. His thoughts strayed back to the work he was doing for a PhD.

The band started to play a cover of the Rolling Stones song ‘Satisfaction’. Jonathan glanced down the room, curious to know the age of the musicians. The girl that he saw close to him filled him with sudden wonder and delight. Her eyes were amber. Her long hair was the colour of clover honey. She seemed, astonishingly, to be on her own. Jonathan was a shy man, but he immediately went over and introduced himself.

“Can I fetch you some food?” he offered.

She smiled. “I’ll join you in the queue, I think.” Her accent was Australian. “My name’s Vikki, by the way.”

“Vicky. Short for Victoria, or christened Vicky?”

“Christened? My folks wouldn’t have anything to do with that! But Vikki’s the name on my birth certificate.”

Jonathan turned in response to a tap on his shoulder. The man was tall. He was handsome in a flashy way. He gestured that Jonathan should leave.

“Don’t be so tedious, Guy.”

Vikki looked upset by the interruption.

“I’m sorry. I don’t want to intrude if you’re with Guy.”

“I’m not.”

Guy and Vikki exchanged looks.

“Go away, Guy,” she said. “You know you shouldn’t be anywhere near me.”

Guy didn’t move.

Jonathan hated confrontation; nevertheless, “Vicky doesn’t want you here,” he said; and hoped he looked sufficiently intimidating. Guy’s punch to his head took him completely by surprise, and knocked him flat. As he elbowed himself off the floor, he saw Guy striding to the exit dragging Vikki with him.

Jonathan pushed away the concerned onlookers. He wiped his hand over his face, and felt dismayed by the blood and mucus. Then he ran at Guy, and punched him as hard as he could at the place where he imagined the kidneys would be.

Friends grabbed him, pinned him. Others held onto Guy, who was retching, struggling to breathe.

Jonathan’s host was there.

“Put him outside,” he said, gesturing at Guy.

“If you want to continue,” he said to Jonathan, “you can go outside too. What on earth were you thinking about, Jon?”

“He was thinking of me,” interrupted Vikki. “Thank you, Jon. Guy’s a brute. There’s a restraining order against him, but he won’t leave me alone.”

Vikki led Jonathan into the kitchen, sponged the blood off his face.

“You’ll have a nasty bruise there.”

Jonathan grinned. “Never mind that. Can I see you tomorrow?”

“Oh, Jon! I wish you hadn’t asked that! I’m going home to Oz.”

They looked at each other.

“Holiday, or permanent?”

“Permanent.”

They looked away.

Then Jon turned back to Vikki, and took both her hands in his. Her skin was so soft and smooth.

“You feel it too, don’t you?” he said. He watched her face attentively, seeing pain, hunger, longing.

At last she sighed, nodded, and laid her face against his shoulder.

Next day, Jonathan watched her go through the departure gate, stayed and watched her plane take off. He clutched the piece of paper on which she’d written her name and address.

Who would have thought that love at first sight could hurt so much?

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