It’s raw and unedited, but… it’s what’s been in my head recently. Happy weekend. And happy reading!
I had spotted him when I turned onto Notting Hill Gate from Pembridge Gardens. He was leaning against the grey slate wall between the cash machines of Abbey and RBS, wearing faded jeans and a white V-neck T-shirt. There was a slight commotion around him – girls chuckling nervously at the sight of him, women turning their heads, their hair swirling around with an almost audible swoosh, observing him with unconcealed yearn. Scanning the traffic that rushed past on the road in front of him, he was refreshingly oblivious to the abundance of female attention that was thrown at him.
‘Hey.’ I stopped next to him and smiled.
‘Bonjour Klara.’ He smiled in return and leaned in to kiss me on both my cheeks. ‘For a moment I thought you had changed your mind.’ He smelled of tobacco and aftershave.
I checked my watch and shrugged. ‘I never said I’d be on time. I only asked you to be punctual.’
‘Klara, mais Klara.’ Julien shook his head and laughed. ‘You are some kind of girl!’
I laughed back and took his hand, pulling him behind me. No, I am not. ‘Let’s go.’
He wanted to know everything. Where I bought my coffee in the morning, where I got on the bus, where I dropped my clothes to have them dry-cleaned, which market stall I preferred to buy flowers and which to buy fruit and veg. He wasn’t interested in going down to the V&A or taking the boat to Greenwhich. Neither Buckingham Palace nor Big Ben tickled his fancy. He wanted to know the tiniest and littlest detail that my everyday life consisted of. Either this was an exceptionally cunning and thought-through plan to wrap me around his little finger, or this guy had a serious crush on me.
‘Are you hungry?’ Julien stopped in the middle of Portobello Road and faced me.
I bumped into him and laughed. ‘Always. Where do you want to go? There are a few swanky restaurants just around the corner. Most likely you’ll find a few people speaking your language over there… Otherwise there’s a low key Thai place up the road.’
‘Swanky?’ Julien flinched. ‘I have enough swanky during the week. Low key sounds good to me.’
I placed my hand on his shoulder and gently pushed him in the other direction. Underneath the thin fabric of his soft cotton T-shirt, I felt his muscles moving.
‘Swanky during the week?’ We had sat down at a table on the canopy-covered terrace of Thai Gardens, eager to keep our faces and bare forearms out of the sweltering July midday sun.
‘Well.’ Julien fidgeted on his flimsy metal chair. ‘I work in Asset Management.’
‘Haha. A banker. Of course.’ I teased.
‘You have got to do something, non?’ He scratched the back of his head. ‘Ideally, I’d do something more creative.’
I yawned. Another artist manqué?
‘I quit a few years ago.’ He continued. ‘They offered me a redundancy package during the last crisis, which I gratefully accepted to take two years off.’
‘Oh.’ I sat up straight. ‘What have you done during that time?’
‘I travelled for half a year. To Algeria, Mozambique, Madagascar and Indonesia. And then I returned to Paris and painted.’ He smiled timidly. ‘I have even sold a few pieces.’
‘What made you stop?’
‘The solitude. And running out of money. Let’s say I got so attached to my work that I couldn’t let go and sell them. I tend to get quite attached to beautiful things.’ He looked up, a mischievous sparkle in his dark eyes, his lips drawn into a playful smile.
The early evening sun had plunged Notting Hill into the kind of iridescent, rainbow-like light that is unique to the blue hour on a hot summer day. ‘Can I walk you home?’ Julien held out his hand.
‘That would be nice.’ I put my hand in his and pointed towards Ladbroke Grove.
It took a few instructions, but without even knowing the way, he managed to guide me home.
‘This is it.’ I stopped at the bottom of the stairs. ‘Thanks for the meal. And the company.’ My skin tingled slightly from the sun that had been shining on it all day and from the excitement that comes with discovering that someone could be as sexy on the inside as his promising shell.
‘Klara…’ Julien said quietly and pulled me close. His flat stomach pressed hard against mine. ‘Klara…’ He gushed again before he put his lips firmly on mine.
In fact, he pressed so hard that I felt his teeth clashing on mine through the layers of two sets of lips. His tongue wriggled its way into my mouth, aimlessly probing and shoving. I peeled his hands off my hips and took a step back. ‘What was this?’ I laughed.
‘What? What was what?’ Julien ran the back of his hand over his lips and beamed at me. The mischievous sparkle was back.
‘The kiss.’ I fumbled for my keys and sprinted up the stairs. ‘You kiss like a teenager.’ I laughed and turned around. ‘Bonne nuit, Julien.’
‘Bonne nuit, Klara!’ I heard him shouting as the door fell into the lock behind me.