Excerpt: Blindsided

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Sometimes, love hurts.

‘Blindsided’ is Gemma Rice at her most uncompromising, it’s a love story which is climatic and dramatic. Love is patient, love is kind, love is understanding. And love catches you when you fall.

~ Chapter 1 ~
Three long months away from home and I’m back a day early. I can’t wait to see the look on his face when I surprise him. My relief is palpable as I park behind his black Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X FQ-400. It’s been a long journey, and I’m exhausted. Sitting for a moment, I appreciate the view of our  house which we had built for us, opening the door of my silver Audi A3 cabriolet to inhale the ocean scent of home.

My eyes track the sunset glinting off sea on its route to death behind the horizon.
How I missed this.
Turning away from the view, I make my weary way to the open front door and up pale marble steps leading into the house. Shining their welcome, the cool tiles soothe my soles as I step out of my shoes, allowing my naked feet to whisper over the floor.
Huge windows overwhelm most of the walls, offering panoramic views of untouched beauty. We’ve left it wild as neither of us has the time for gardening.

I wander through the shadowed cool interior to André’s office, as he’s not in the lounge or dining room, but my cursory glance reveals the room is vacant.
Maybe he’s making dinner?

Pirouetting, I pad lethargically to the Tuscan kitchen – our indulgence. It’s warm, in shades of pale lemon and burnished amber. Copper pans and a pale oak table stand sentry, more silence. He’s not here either.
The front door was open – his car is outside – he must be home.

Leaving my shoes in the entrance to the bedroom passage, I pass the bathroom and spare bedroom into our cocoon of intimacy, which is usually welcoming with its colour-scheme of matt black and pale fawn. It always eases fraught nerves.
I stare in disbelief at the wide, low bed; frozen.
My pleasure at being home evaporates like vapour in the morning sun. His spine is to me, and small plump hands with bright pink fingernails are clamping into his muscular back.
I’ve worked so hard, and I let myself believe we would never do this – he would never do this.
Indecision clutches me as too many reactions thrash between my neurons for supremacy. I want to yell, to lash out, kick the fucker out of the home that I paid for; dissolve in a puddle of acid tears, break her, break him, break everything the way he just broke me.

Paused in a quantum universe as the floor disappears beneath my feet, bottoming out, free falling through the darkest space where there is no air to breathe, the darkness closes in, suffocating; I am the statue-still witness of my own despair.
But I’ve worked so long, too long, and if I lose him, I won’t just be losing my lover, I’d be losing my best friend and business partner – right now losing André isn’t an option I’m ready to face.

So instead, I move quietly to the round chair, sinking woodenly into it. My life continuously shattered by the groans, the giggles, the purring of lovers caressing each other with words of lust and praise.
I can smell them.
Her blond hair is scattered widely over my pillow, as she lays beneath my lover; my soul-mate.
Leaning back, I inhale, counting down from ten. Steepling my fingers together until the nail-beds turn white, I’m light-headed.
Trying hard not to reveal my pain, suppressing the urge to weep as the shards of my heart pierce vital organs, every breath I take is a struggle.
My lungs are so tight.
She gasps with shock when she sees me.

“Lee!” André reacts, pulling the fawn sheet up to cover his nudity – their nudity.
He instantly pales, looking ill with the sheen from exertion polishing his now alabaster face.
Maintaining the grip on my emotions, I smile at him, “Hello, André, I’m home.”
The girl looks like she’s going to bolt, but I’m not going to make this easy for either of them. I’m going to draw this out, until he is a debilitated wreck.
His focus darts nervously, shifting shocked brown eyes from her face to mine, indecision transparent.
Standing with forced serenity, I walk over, ignoring him, staring down at a girl half my age, at least.

Offering her my hand, I deliberately introduce myself, “I’m Leanne. And you are?”
“Trish.” Awkwardly her clammy palm is engulfed in my firm shake.
Staring into her green eyes, then his frozen coffee ones, I suggest calmly, “I don’t know about you two, but I could use a drink. Care to join me?”
He’s floored. He was expecting a myriad of reactions, and this isn’t one of them. Oh how the young underestimate age.
She nods. His smile doesn’t reach his eyes, searching mine, looking for clues, trying to understand why I’m not castrating him and throwing him off the cliff.
I wait patiently.

Making the situation forcefully uncomfortable, refusing to leave my own bedroom for them to regain composure, to have a private conversation.
Oh no, there’s three of us involved in this.
I sit down again, waiting, watching.
My heart disintegrates completely when I notice he’s prophylactic free.
She’s shorter than me, and I’m short. She yanks her clothes on faster than a meteorite plummeting through the night sky, while he turns his back to me, pulling on sun bleached blue jeans with forced refrain.

Taking his time, pretending this is normal, we’re fine, everything’s just freaking fabulous.
I deeply desire to snip each of his long tanned fingers off his right hand as he clasps her hand in reassurance, the other hand nervously rakes his hair, looking haughtily down his nose at me. He’s so shocked-white that I want to laugh.
Rising out of my chair, I hold my head proudly poised, deliberately strolling with them behind me, glancing down at Trish on my way to the door; I’m a full head taller than her at five-foot-two. He’s at least two feet taller than her. I’m too tired to do the math.

I did acting, a long time ago, and can fool anyone who doesn’t know me. I flash the nubile plump temptress my friendliest smile, hooking my arm through hers, leading her away from him, smelling him all over her, accosting my nostrils with the love of my life, she’s wearing my soul’s cologne on her sun-tanned skin.
I’m ashen from three months of Canadian snow, living in a decrepit caravan on a movie set, while my lover turned into a playboy, spending my money to woo well rounded girls into our home.
What a revelation.
I’ll never forget this day as long as I live. The third of March, five-twenty-six in the afternoon.

~ Chapter 2 ~
Leading the jittery girl into the kitchen, my command returns.

Calmer, I sashay with deliberate grace to the fridge, asking her casually, “Fancy a margarita?”

She sits on a stool at the table, leaning onto her elbows, a beautiful smile plumping her baby face further, “Oh yes!”

André leans a hip against the deep white sink at the window which overlooks the vegetable garden.

Satisfaction boosts my confidence when I catch his fingers trembling. He grips the sink tightly, steely eyes challenging me, communicating that he noticed my scrutiny.

“What about you, darling?” I smile, knowing it’s forced and he can see it, but she won’t know that.
His eyes have hardened with anticipation of relationship Armageddon.

He’s so tense, I can see every muscle in his naked torso outlining before my eyes.

He’s a demi-god. The Fates were much too kind to him.

No one should be allowed to wander through life with that much talent, dashing good looks, and natural charisma. Six-foot-four, and perfectly in proportion.

In fact, if he’d ever come to a movie set with me, Robert Pattinson would be yesterday’s news. Andy has the look, and demeanour, of a famous heart-throb.

“I’m good, thanks.”

Flashing him a gloating smile, I pour two margaritas, sprinkling salt into both of them. Whoever decided to make this ready-made bottled version just diverted a murder.

Handing Trish her drink, I raise my glass up in salute, “Cheers.”

She clinks hers against mine, gullibly smiling at Andy. He’s only André when he’s in shit. When he’s my best friend and lover, he’s Andy.

He will never be Andy again.

He moves behind her, suggesting gruffly, “I should take you home.”

Rather pleased with my quick thinking, I’ve thought of this already. “I’ll take Trish home. I’ve parked behind you, you can’t get out.”

I flash him another triumphant smile.

Sweat those bullets, you betraying fucker!

His expressive eyes beseech mine with silent imploring.

Ignoring him, I turn my charm onto Trish, leaning close to her like a girlfriend conspirator, “Live nearby?”
I watch her hands with too many rings, they have the added fleshiness of youth that mine lost long ago. Her arms are rounded, and to be honest, I’m surprised André was attracted to her.

I’m lithe, my body toned to perfection despite not ever having enough free time to stay perfectly cut. I work hard on my body, but my face could never match hers in youthfulness.

There’s no escaping the change from puppy-fat to adult streamline. I dye my waist-length hair, covering dark blond and grey with Audrey Hepburn perfection.

This child before my eyes has unruly, curled, shoulder length hair. And she’s obviously young enough to not care that he’s in a relationship.

She sees a catch.

She sees a forty year old man who looks ten years younger than he is. He’s financially loaded, and more charming than Satan himself.

Was I really gone that long, that he had to turn to this for release from sexual frustration?
“I live down in the fishing village.”

“With your Mum and Dad?”

She nods.

Sipping my margarita, I savour the bracing cold of it. I’ve been driving for three hours to get home from the airport.

“So, are you studying?” I interrogate sweetly.

She shakes her head, tousling her hair over bikini straps, “No. I work at Gert’s Burger house.”

I shoot him a glance, watching me with hooded eyes behind her shoulder.

He knows, because his eyes flinch.

Aiming high cowboy, is what my eyes told him.

“Shall we go?” I offer, standing erect with purpose after draining my glass.
“Sure.”

Swivelling in her stool she turns to him, wrapping arms around the waist above his jeans, pressing a kiss into his navel, then staring up him with adoration, “Bye gorgeous.”

I pause, watching as he imperceptibly shakes his head at her. Oblivious to the warning, she prances off her stool with exuberance, tiptoeing on sandalled feet to kiss his mouth, “Bye.”

The urge to decapitate him grips me as he pats her voluptuous derriere, smiling warmly at her.

Waiting, I stall, not leaving them alone, until she joins me.
Hooking my arm though hers again, I lead her down the passage, collecting my shoes, then my keys and sunglasses on the hall table, remarking about the delicious summer heat of the waning day.
At the car, I shoot my shielded eyes at André leaning with his hands hooked casually in front pockets, a broad shoulder propping him up against the wall at the steps.
He smiles, lifting a hand to Trish in farewell as she climbs in and yells before closing her door, “Call me!”
Not wanting to linger, I seat myself, buckle up, and ignite the engine. Reversing the silver cabriolet out of the drive, I sedately direct the car away as she frantically waves.
“So how long have you been seeing André?” I probe.
“On and off for ages.”
She gives me a trusting smile, I return it with ease, “He’s a great guy, isn’t he?”
“The best!”
“Do you mind if I ask you how old you are?”
“Twenty-three. You?”
“I’m old enough,” I respond obtusely.
“You guys are so cool having such an open relationship.”
Flashing her a demure smile, the fib rolls over my ruby lips, “Yes, yes we are.”

I want to know where she lives, she’s my nemesis and I want to know everything about her, so I can mentally profile her, and gain ammunition if I should ever need it. Dropping her off outside a derelict house on the poorer side of town, I drive away, biting my lip to prevent it from quivering.
Her house has a bright blue roof, with peeling white paint long turned grey on the walls.
The veranda floor is stained red, the garden a postage stamp, run down, with creepers swallowing the light away from the home as it trails over the tin roof and around the poles on the veranda.
She’s dirt poor, and she thinks she just got lucky.
Maybe she did.
Seven minutes later I switch off the engine, overlooking the ocean from the Point.
I know he must be desperate to talk to her.
Unearthing my mobile, I call the cellular provider and cancel his phone.
Then I cancel the home phone with immediate effect, telling the woman how my maid has used the home phone and I need to cancel it, now.
Right now.
Once reassured that both phones are disconnected, I sit back and stare vacantly at the tranquil marine vista. I pay for everything. It’s all in my name and god damn it I’m allowed to shut his abuse down with passive aggression.
Succumbing to the wound while waves lull their heartbeat into the interior via my open window, I wrap my arms over the steering wheel and wrack with sobs, crying until there are no more tears and the car is enveloped in a chilling night breeze.
I need to break this ache.
Pressing play, music filters through the speakers into the gloomy interior of the car, and the strumming guitar instantly eases my bereavement.
Oh God. Poor choice.
The bubbling geyser of emotional agony spills tears onto my cheeks as I stare sightlessly at the steering wheel, listening to words which mirror my moment.
I forgot this song sang these words.
Blind through hot watery anguish, he sings directly to my pain; … There’s no comfort in my bed, and I’d like to leave, in a time machine and go back to where we were, all I can say is I’ve been blindsided again … all I can do is take my bow … and if it’s the end I’m going down with no regret because I’ve loved you …
Wailing, I withdraw into my seat, clutching my knees and sobbing harder than ever.
Shattered, my life completely annihilated around me, my security vaporised, my trust obliterated, my emotions scattered, I switch on the lights, breathe life into the car with the turn of the key, and drive with exhaustion intermingling with queasiness, back to my home.
It was my sanctuary. It was my haven.
Now I’m the stranger, and I’ve lost everything I was working so hard to keep.

3 Comments
  1. Hannah Warren says

    Dear Poppet, this is lyrical, deeply emotional, surprising, heart-rendering, painful, truthful and authentic prose with a dash of poetry. You’re a lark and would she have lived today Virginia Woolf would have loved you and kissed you full on the mouth to show her praise. I’m flabbergasted, really I am! Liefs Hannah

    1. Gemma Rice says

      Thank you Hannah. Your praise is most touching, and I’m super pleased you enjoyed this excerpt from Blindsided.

  2. Gina Dar says

    Thanks for the encouragement, Marshall!

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