This story is copyright Amanda 2003,2004 © please do not reproduce this work without my prior approval as it is close to my heart.
This story was inspired by a wonderfully talented writer.
Emma strolled aimlessly along the sea front, the warm summer breeze carrying with it the hint and scent of a thunderstorm. 'I knew I should have brought a coat, ' Emma sighed to herself, knowing that three successive days of hot English weather was about the best she could really hope for. The approaching storm had turned the air humid, making her flowered cotton sundress stick to her in places she really wished it wouldn't. Emma loved being able to wear summer clothes and wished she could be walking along a beach in the Seychelles, wearing nothing but a skimpy bikini and a diaphanous sarong. "Someday," she whispered to the rising wind, but in her heart of hearts she knew that at thirty-two it was unlikely to happen now.
All Emma had to look forward to right now was the six-week summer holiday that she considered the major, if not only, perk of being a teacher. As tradition demanded, she and her colleagues had gone out to celebrate the end of term with a few drinks. That had been only three hours ago and already she was alone, the others gradually drifting away with excuses of children to tend or spouses to meet.
"Trust Andrew to go away today," Emma softly cursed. Although even to herself she admitted that it wasn't really his fault he had to go away for work, or that he spent so many hours working these days he no longer seemed interested in her. More often than not he would claim tiredness as a well-worn refrain for slinking off to bed early, leaving Emma even more alone than when he wasn't in the house.
To try and fill the void that seemed to be widening with every passing day, Emma looked for other avenues to provide at least a partial distraction to her loneliness. She'd even considered having an affair, knowing at least two semi- decent candidates at her school who would not have objected. But like so many things in her life, such possibilities remained simply unfulfilled fantasies.
She had, at least for a short while, even tried to turn her hand to writing erotic fiction, finding a huge audience for such work on the internet. But she soon found that what people wanted was sex, not eroticism, let alone the kind of romance she wanted to write about. She had tried, but quickly realised that her lack of experience with men, other than Andrew, was a severe handicap. And one drunken kiss with her college roommate, no matter how enjoyable, could hardly give her a basis for writing lesbian stories.
Not surprisingly, her literary career waned, just as she herself sometimes thought she was doing; each day she felt smaller and less significant than the last, expecting one day to just disappear. 'Would anyone notice?' she wondered.
As she gazed out to sea, thinking of wasting away, Emma found herself contemplating her evening meal and thought of the selection of 'meals for one' currently residing in her freezer. 'Meals for people who eat alone' Emma termed them. She wanted to host dinner parties for people like herself, not sit in front of the TV with some aeroplane food in its own little plastic bowl. But friends were scarce, most of them left behind when they'd moved from their hometown a few years back for the sake of Andrew's career.
The first spot of rain broke in uninvited on Emma's reverie, and she thought about catching the bus home, but on looking up saw that she had walked further than she had realised and was only a couple of streets away from Gino's. At first a smile lit up her face as she recalled the lovely little Italian bistro she and Andrew used to go to in their younger days. But the smile faded, and her sadness, almost as heavy and cloying as the atmosphere, deepened as she realised she couldn't even remember the last time they had gone there.
A distant rumble of thunder threatened worse rain to come, and Emma made a quick decision to go to the restaurant for shelter; as much from her loneliness as from the rain.
With her high heels slowing her progress slightly, and the wind starting to blow her curly brown hair in front of her eyes, Emma made her way through the small side streets leading away from the promenade.
The rain was now coming full-tilt, gusting on each roar of thunder as Emma rounded the corner of the street on which Gino's stood. Small rivers of rainwater began to run down the edge of the road as the drains failed to cope with the sudden deluge. Had it not been for the awnings over the shops, Emma would by now have been totally drenched.
With her head down as she walked into the teeth of the mounting gale, her small clutch bag held ineffectually over her hair, Emma moved as fast as she could, only lifting her eyes occasionally to check on her progress. She stopped and was about to go into the restaurant when a silver Mercedes sports car pulled up sharply at the curb beside her. A plume of water shot out from under the car's front wheel towards Emma, soaking her best hold-up stockings from her feet to her knees.
Emma seethed; and as the driver's door opened and a large black umbrella was opened from inside, she fully intended to berate the driver for being such an inconsiderate oaf.
The words died on Emma's lips, however, as the umbrella was quickly followed by a tall redhead in a sumptuous green dress. "Oh, I am so sorry, honey," the redhead soothed, her voice dripping concern.
Wet though she was, Emma simply stood on the pavement as the woman walked around to the curb. Emma looked with a little envy at the woman as she nimbly stepped around the growing puddles, graceful, even allowing for the 4-inch stiletto heels of her gold strappy sandals that added to her already statuesque 5 foot 10.
The arm that held up the umbrella was bare, her obviously expensive green silk dress fitting under her left arm before sweeping across the top of her ample breasts in a diagonal line to her right shoulder. The right arm was close-sleeved to the elbow, and from there the material opened with a fluted diagonal edge that terminated in a point just above her wrist. A three-stranded diamond bracelet glinted in the dying light and matched the choker that encircled the woman's pale throat. The dress fitted tight around her waist, enhancing her breasts, then it flared slightly over her hips before cascading in soft folds to just above her knee.
"I really am sorry, honey. I just saw the parking space outside Persephone's and couldn't believe my luck, so I slung the car to a stop. I didn't see you; or the puddle," the redhead explained as she towered over Emma's petite frame, the umbrella now shielding both of them from the worst of the rain.
Suddenly, lightning flashed behind Emma, illuminating the face of her assailant and, like a strobe in a disco, it burned the image of red lips and deep green eyes on Emma's retina.
"Are you okay, honey?" the redhead asked, bringing Emma to her senses a little.
"Yes," Emma replied woodenly. "I'm fine. A little damp, but I suppose there's no real harm done."
"Are you going far? You'll catch your death in this rain."
"No, not far." Emma said, the hint of a smile just brushing her lips. "I thought I'd be able to get to Gino's before the worst of it came. But I guess I was wrong."
The redhead bit her glossy lower lip before saying, almost sadly, "I'm afraid Gino's closed eighteen months ago, honey. It re-opened as Persephone's about six months later."
Emma looked over her shoulder at the dusky pink that had replaced the slightly flaking green, red and white, confirming that Gino's was no more. Emma sighed at the thought that yet another of her memories would remain simply that, out of reach, never to be replayed in her humdrum life.
"Look, you can't go anywhere in this weather dressed like that, honey. Come inside and at least let yourself dry off until the rain stops. I'm sure they can find you a towel or something," the redhead said as she took Emma's elbow and turned her towards the blacked-out glass door of Persephone's. Emma waited at the door; gaining what shelter she could from the small overhang whilst the green-robed vision shook the heaviest drops from the umbrella. With the umbrella now folded, Emma opened the door, holding it for her companion.
"Why thank you, honey."
Emma found heat rising on her cheeks at being called 'honey', especially by someone who was obviously younger and richer and, she conceded, more beautiful than she was.
Once inside, the door closed quietly behind them, muffling the sound of the storm that still raged outside, and even the brightest stroke of lightning could not penetrate the blackness of the doors and windows.
Emma looked around and realised that the exterior paintwork was not the only sign of change in the restaurant. The whitewashed walls and pictures of the owner's former home in Tuscany were replaced with dark terracotta, made even darker by the subdued shell-shaped uplighters on the wall that provided what was now a totally separate reception with its only source of light.
.... There is more of this story ...