Danny left Dublin for Madrid two years ago, but still scans the crowd in the Irish pubs for the face of someone from home. Though doubtful he’ll ever recognise anybody, one evening he sees Aisling, a girl he’d known – or wished he’d known – at university. Beautiful but haughty, she’d always ignored Danny, and though he’d fantasised about making love to her, she’d never so much as smiled at him.
To his amazement, Aisling is extremely friendly when she meets him all these years later and away from home. She is still snobby and condescending, but Danny decides to make her night as enjoyable as he can, hoping for one last chance to impress her and make his teenage fantasies come true. As the sultry Madrid night progresses, mere lust grows into affection, and Danny begins to see her snobbery as something else entirely. Will Aisling see Danny as more than just a way to pass her night in Madrid?
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Draining the glass, Danny placed it on the bar, debating whether to have another pint, or stroll home and have a glass of wine while he prepared dinner. The plan was just one pint, but he needed to tell himself that twice; once when he went into the bar and again when he’d finished the drink.
And then he saw her.
She stood quite near, surrounded by a tight knot of people at the edge of the dance floor that had parted momentarily. She wore a cotton summer dress that showed the sweep of her shoulder blades and spine. The dress was floral, red with splashes of black and dark blue. She wore soft brown leather sandals that were almost invisible against her tanned feet. Her toenails were painted red but her fingernails were French polished. A silver or white-gold bracelet hung from her right wrist, and on her left she wore a silver wristwatch, which a discreet look later told him was a Patek Philippe. In her ears she had diamond stud earrings, and on the ring finger of her right hand was a silver ring with a blue stone he couldn’t identify.
He didn’t see her face straight away, yet something deep inside him said it had to be her.
In college, he’d often stared at this girl’s long blonde hair from a few seats behind in the lecture theatre, while far below them a maths professor droned on about matrices. He knew the shape of her head and neck, had observed her tie up that hair, amazed at the beauty of the fine, straight filaments, the way the strands slid like silk over one another, yet held as one tight rope. When she was an infant her mother had clearly decided ever cutting such hair would be a sin, and she’d concurred. She plaited it, put it in a ponytail, tied it up around a clip made of what seemed to Danny like a piece of wood and two chopsticks, or simply a spare pencil. Sometimes it splayed out across her shoulders like a cascade of spun gold. Now it was pulled up in a silver clasp, to reveal the nape of a long, fine neck, and soft-skinned shoulders.
Those shoulders had been bared before, in a hot September of their freshman year, and later, during the intense study month when the cherry blossoms bloomed and fell across the lawns of campus. Danny had fantasised about slipping off that shoulder strap, letting the silky string fall down along her arm, trailing his fingers along her collarbone and ribs and pushing aside the top to expose her breasts.
When she turned around in the bar and he saw her face, Danny instantly searched through his memory to match her visage, and see all six numbers of recognition. It came out a winner. She stared back at him, her brain no doubt doing the same. Although still early, and most—apart from the pre-marriage revellers—were only on their second or third drink, Danny thought she must have been fairly merry already, because as she recognised him she smiled.
She’d never smiled at him before—not in four years of college. Then again, they’d not interacted much. They’d never really talked, never attended the same classes after second year. He’d always told himself she’d never smiled at him because she didn’t know him. Once or twice, of course, she’d turned around, casually, and seen him. But she’d seen lots of others sitting behind her, too. The back rows of the lecture theatre were filled with Danny’s friends, who’d varying levels of interest in her hair and the maths lecture; from zero to all-absorbed.
The chance to get to know her had never come around. She’d majored in chemistry, Danny in computer science. He had taken a chemistry class in second year, but she’d always seemed to sit on the opposite side of the theatre then. His gaze had often paused upon her face as he searched through those assembled in a lecture the way he did through the throng of a bar.
She was stunning. Her frame was that of someone who was fit without effort. A swimmer or a gymnast at some point, she had a fine body, breasts the way Hemingway described, wide womanly hips and a behind that eyes or hands could never tire of. She had crystal blue eyes like deep Antarctic ice, and a button nose. Her mouth was perfect. Her teeth had had money spent on them, but her lips were natural; she had a dazzling smile. But before that moment in a Madrid bar, Danny had only received the coldness of those glacial eyes.
JD Martins has been called Spanish, Mexican, Chinese, Philippine and English and Australian. He is none of these.
He’s lived in four cities in three countries on two continents, but he doesn’t feel like he’s travelled very much. His life in each city was rather mundane and he didn’t get out much – tending to move his pen more than his body.
He still aspires to see much more of the world – probably when his wife becomes rich enough to let him retire from day jobs.
He would like to live like Ernest Hemmingway: periodically sending novel manuscripts to his publisher from various far-flung corners of the world, though he’s not sure the quality will be quite the same. Until then, he has contented himself with living like Robert Graves – in a pleasant part of Spain with a quiet life – and being able to do some things that Hemmingway did – trout fishing in Spain, game hunting in Africa, watching bullfights and running with the bulls, – and a few that he did not get to do – surfing, skydiving, bungee jumping, and getting erotic stories published.