In hope of giving you some entertainment in these peculiar times, here’s a short story. It’s a gentle romance, with a touch of humour, from a collection of such stories I published some time ago.
A Perfect Solution
Under the heat of a Mediterranean sun it seemed ludicrous to care about his worries back home. The girls almost in their bikinis, the ever-ready bar by the pool of inviting water, the tang of Greek cooking on the warm wind, all combined to feed the mind with more interesting images. Problems of the sort he’d left behind were too distant to be considered here. They were only words, after all.
The sunbed next to him creaked a little as the girl turned to face the sun, adjusting straps so she wouldn’t be striped at the end of the day’s worship. He studied her without her knowledge; designer shades covering his wandering eyes.
Good figure; obviously. He’d hardly be studying a lump of lard. Her face though: the features were all the right features and in all the right places but there was something there that he couldn’t quite fathom. Something that took the edge off perfection.
Pretty, of course. Nice hair. Had he really thought that? ‘Nice hair?’ Lazy description of the locks of auburn sheen that, untamed, would tumble across her slender shoulders caressing skin still bronzing.
Nice hair. Really!
No. He wouldn’t allow it to happen. Not on this holiday. He was here to relax and enjoy himself. Rediscover the creative urge. Professional anxieties and concerns were not to be allowed to interrupt the pleasure.
He blinked; understood she was addressing him.
‘You’re staring at me. Quite oddly.’
She’d sat up and tied the halter neck so that she wouldn’t inadvertently expose herself. ‘You are.’
‘I’d begun by admiring you but then my mind went off on a tangent. It does that. I wander into daydreams. Absolutely nothing wrong with you. You’re perfect.’
There, that should do it. It was half a lie and he still couldn’t quite determine what it was about her face. Frustrating to remain unable to identify the problem when he prided himself on his powers of observation.
‘Are you always both honest and duplicitous?’
This wasn’t right. She was beautiful, apparently unattached and on a package holiday, so it was obvious she’d have an awful voice, or a mind fit only for a mouse. But she spoke like honey and used thought processes.
‘I try to be honest. Which part of my reply was duplicitous?’
‘No one, under any circumstances, regardless of the predilections of the observer, can ever be described as perfect. It’s impossible, and ultimately undesirable.’
She stood as she spoke, the white cotton triangles covering so little it was hard for him not to stare in a fashion he wished to avoid. But she was impossible, and he wondered if heat and drink had combined to form illusion. Upright, aided by gravity and perspective, she appeared even more enticing than when he’d first selected her on entering the poolside arena.
‘Wrong. You are perfection. Not my fault if you are incapable of accepting the fact.’
‘Too much sun.’ She dismissed him and walked three light steps to the water and allowed it to absorb her silently and without fuss.
He watched her cut through the surface to the far side, make a swimmer’s turn at the edge, and return without apparent effort. It was a demonstration of ease and confidence that increased his admiration.
He slipped carefully into water that seemed icy after the heat. Once he’d acclimatised and was able to move without puffing like an old man, he caught her on a turn and splashed alongside her, his clumsy strokes no match for her ease and ability.
‘You even swim perfectly.’
She stopped mid pool and stood, out of the water from her armpits, the curves of her breasts bouncing slightly in the small waves.
‘How do you do that?’
‘You’ll have to be more explicit. You appear to be asking the question of my breasts but about my swimming. My ears are on the side of my head; just like yours.’
It should’ve been humiliating to have his obvious carnality pointed out, but she did it with fun in her voice, her words tinged with laughter. And when he tore his eyes away and up, he discovered hers were sparkling.
‘Unavoidable. As a man, I’m biologically imprinted. The primal imperative. Select perfection, and breed.’
‘Isn’t it a little early in our relationship to be talking of breeding? It’s customary to buy a woman a drink, learn her name and maybe just enough about her before you engage in passion. But then maybe I’m a bit old fashioned.’
He had to laugh, and it seemed to please her that he did. She was a most unusual woman.
‘Here, let me show you.’
She moved with ease so that she stood behind him. Took his arms in knowing hands and moved them.
‘You see; if you slide smoothly through the water, treat it as a friend rather than an opponent, you’ll make better progress with less floundering.’
He allowed her hands to guide him and understood exactly what she meant. ‘This is too much. You have the looks of a goddess, a quiet intellect and now I discover you’re kind, able, amusing and a damn good teacher to boot. It isn’t fair. I’m just a failed writer. How can I possibly compete?’
Her eyebrows rose in evident disagreement and he thought he’d solved the problem.
‘Do you want to?’
Did he? She’d hit the mark. Why would he be in competition?
‘I have to find a way to entice your admiration, as I admire you. Otherwise I’ll become a sad appendage, following you around, with my eyes if not my person, never even noticed by you. For a prize such as you, effort and some accomplishment are necessary even to be in the field, surely?’
‘Perhaps I find you irresistible. It wouldn’t be as surprising as your raised eyebrows suggest.’
He lowered them. ‘In evolutionary terms, it’s the place of the male to dominate. He must be at least theoretically capable of spreading his seed far and wide to ensure the domination of his genes. A woman merely has to make herself available to the optimum suitor to enable the success of her genes. In order to attract you, I have to possess some special feature, some distinctive aspect that raises me above my fellow men. Otherwise your genetic make-up will cause you to reject me. Simple as that.’
‘I wonder why even clever men are so idiotic. Look. We’ll saunter to the shallow end, swim two lengths together and see whether you can put into practice what I’ve taught you. If you can, I’ll save you the bother of asking me and have dinner with you tonight. How’s that?’
It was too much. She was taking charge, and he liked it. He had no argument. How could he? He nodded. They sauntered. He watched, as more and more of her became exposed by the dropping level of the water, until it reached the top of the bottom triangle.
‘There you go again. I’m up here. Remember?’
‘So you are.’
She set off with a gentle forward plunge and he had to shift rather faster than he intended in order to catch up. She waited, however and after the first few strokes of incompetence, he managed to recall the reward and the reason for his effort. He put her advice into practice and made it to the deep end without further splashing and with little effort. She was smiling as he turned, and she followed him back to the shallows.
‘Excellent. I take it that your early experience; a near drowning, a fight with a bully in the school pool, still haunts you from time to time?’
‘You’re overly intuitive. And, yes, the first. But your lesson and your presence combine to reduce the memory to no more than that. In one easy movement, you’ve reduced a trauma to the status of a mildly unpleasant memory. Clearly, you’re a gifted therapist.’
‘Hardly. Now that we’ve improved your swimming, shall we tackle your other problem? I don’t think you specified.’
‘My writer’s block?’
‘Ah. I expect your problems are merely stylistic. It’s presentation, rather than substance or the idea, that lies at the centre of your doubt.’
How could she possibly know? She’d never read a word of what he was writing. Now he knew he was living in an alcohol induced fantasy. And, in a fantasy, he was at liberty to say what he liked.
‘You’re absolutely right. Now you’ll have to marry me. Or, at the very least, agree to live the rest of your life with me. There’s no other possible outcome.’
‘What I want to know first is why a successful novelist would holiday with commoners. Seems an odd choice for a man of such talent, reputation and income.’
‘And I thought I was incognito. I hoped for inspiration from the common crowd.’
‘Have you found it?’
‘I’ve found you. Or, more accurately, you’ve found me. Is it my writing that lifts me from the herd?’
‘You wanted a reason for my admiration. Will that do?’
It was clear, by her confidence and the way she’d so easily identified his problem, that she’d actually read his work and admired it.
‘That would be a wonderful beginning.’
He looked at her again. Perfection. But still that something. Something that didn’t quite fit.
‘Don’t be. I’ve just discovered your single imperfection. They don’t quite match. Perfect.’
‘Oh, thank heavens. A convoluted oxymoron. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to match you if you indulged in linguistic perfection.’
She took his hand and urged him back to the deep end. They swam together for an hour before the need for a siesta took them from the pool.
Ten Love Tales is currently available only in digital form. If you enjoyed the story and would like to read more along similar lines, you can find it on Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes and Noble. Enjoy!