I can make it. Thanks for the late text. I look forward to whatever surprise it is that you have under your cloak. Axx
Andrea sniggered to herself as she popped upstairs to change, Keith’s present tightly bundled under her arm. It was a nice dress, and Alexis had always muttered that the colour, of suits, dresses, et cetera, should compliment a girl’s eyes. As she pondered at herself in the mirror, the soft eye-shadow and rose-tinted lips, she reapplied it all carefully, for eating dinner had rubbed away the gleam. After a minute, she stopped her movement, only to rummage around in her bedside-table underneath her hanging mirror for a hair-clip that would go well with her dress, folding the butterfly shape into her palms before she managed to slip it up to hold back the growing forelock that curled down to be a fringe, all in one smooth, unconscious movement.
Andrea saw the triumphant smile of the reflection, and knew that all she needed to do was make her paced way down to the moonlight-lit beachfront; an odd location to celebrate a birthday, indeed, but one, Andrea knew, that signified Lucas’ spontaneity entirely. He would go to these lengths to impress her; and she would go to lengths to accept it.
Keith looked up, weary-eyed, the moment Andrea’s footsteps had left an imprint on the bottom step. She had decided not to put her sandals on yet, to avoid making the carpet dirty. Although it didn’t occur to her all the time, this house was still her home, and Keith was doing his best to make it so.
“Have a good evening out with your friends, Andrea,” Keith murmured, gently placing a hand on her arm as she passed him. Again, the innate feeling about the moral negativity of lies hit at Andrea, but she knew, there and then, that to push it away for this evening only was acceptable. After all, Keith would probably not react kindly if he knew that she was meeting with Lucas.
“Thanks, Keith,” Andrea whispered as she let the door swing shut behind her.
Andrea didn’t know what she was expecting. There were no street-lamps decorating the seafront that a singular edge of Lansdale Town bordered. Though the town itself was deeply rural, a select few knew of its secret oceanic views and the one route that led to this splendid little fragment of a beach-town. Andrea had always known of it, ever since her mother had shown her this minute place of beauty; she had mentioned it, albeit briefly, in a conversation to Lucas that she had never had with Keith. Andrea didn’t think that the latter had eyes to see this secret land as she did.
The lady had no idea where Lucas was meeting her. Beyond her stretched the wooden boardwalk, dyed brilliant white by the glistening orb overhead; behind her, the shops had been shut for the night, neat railings having slid down, barring entrance to the tourists who might have passed through. Though some did come, this little haven was mostly just for those who, like Andrea and Lucas, wished to find the peace outside of the ever-rushing pace of the town inside.
Now all that Andrea was faced with, in her new dress and ancient sandals, was the dark expanse that was their segment of the sea and the beach surrounding, the moon’s reflected light not penetrating through the thick loose sand.
A sharp, yet sweet, whistle caught Andrea’s attention. She whirled around in the dark, marvelling slightly at the dress’ spiralability, before the whistle sounded again, closer to her ear this time. A hand caught her wrist, stopping the flight of fancy, mid-spin.
“Andrea. Vibrant and youthful as ever. That’s forgetting the age, of course.”
The soft beam from a torch was brought up to Andrea’s chin, highlighting the crafty not-quite-blue-nor-green eyes of her friend.
“Lucas!” she exclaimed, giggling as she threw her arms around his neck. “As cheeky as ever. It’s good to see you. Are you okay?”
“Better now that you’re near me. Come on, I’ve got your present. Well, part one of it. Part two relies heavily on my pupils’ ability to act.”
And, both having said those words, he led her down the ramp he had emerged from and onto the sand below. The granules tickled Andrea’s feet, and soon she had unlaced her sandals once again.
As usual, he looked splendidly dressed, ‘chipper’ as if he had stepped out from the 1950s. They both knew, though neither had said anything much to that extent, that Lucas could, at times, make anyone feel underdressed; more Russell-Bromley-make than the loose Clark’s sandals Andrea had bought years ago, Lucas was not a snob, but he did have some standards, in their unwritten fashion code. She imagined his house to be plain, but well done, as if his idea of living simply meant a way out of living squalor.
Andrea pointed these things out to Lucas, and he chuckled, replying from somewhere ahead in the dark:
“I once saw a motorised suitcase and was tempted to buy it. However, £70 did seem a tad expensive…and no, that’s not a fashion statement.”
This remark set Andrea off into a new flurry of giggles. She had missed Lucas’ personal touch to everything he said.
Lucas marched forward, one hand clutched around the torch, the other gently pulling Andrea in all her blindness. She could hear the ever-growing rush of the waves, she could even feel the surf upon her cheeks, until Lucas suddenly stopped and the breeze no longer needed to rush past them.
In the moonlight, Andrea was sat upon some woollen fabric, flickering golden flares popping up beside her wrists. In the glow from the candles, Andrea could make out the small picnic that was spread out beside the waves.
“It’s not an Oxford punt, but it’ll do, I hope,” Lucas murmured into Andrea’s ear, appearing by her right with a champagne flute.
There was a punnet laden with strawberries, a bottle of champagne, and, in amongst the plastic cutlery and the rug they were sitting upon, a large acoustic guitar had been placed down. Andrea watched as the light flickered around it, casting pinkish hues that were absorbed by the light-wood body. She shot Lucas a confused look, but he was already munching into a strawberry, one bite from one side, twirl, another bite from the opposite side- and repeat. His movements were robotic, so hypnotic.
“For you, dazzling Andrea,” he said, passing the punnet across to her. “I like the dress, I must say. Is it new?”
“Oh, Keith gave it to me today.”
Keith had managed to become a taboo subject between the two of them, even without either saying a word to the contrary.
She watched his annoyance, as disappointment flickered in and out of his eyes. Instead of dwelling upon the facts, she turned her attention to snacking on a strawberry. They were delicious!
“So this is my, present, is it?” Andrea teased. She was enjoying herself immensely.
“I have but one more thing to give you, fair Andrea,” he replied, picking up and swinging the guitar in one fluid movement so that it rested in his arms and lap.
“Oh, you’re not going to…?” Andrea began, but was silenced by Lucas’ finger on her lips.
“Don’t worry. I made sure that nobody would be around to be my witness to you.”
“Oh, really?” Andrea mumbled, pulling a face through his finger.
“Well…not quite. Shh, Andrea. Happy birthday.”
And with that, he brushed his fingers across strings.
He really was going to sing to her! He was singing for her.
First, Lucas strummed an acoustic version of Michael Bublé’s ‘Everything’, for Andrea had once remarked that it was one of her favourite songs, and that she had a soft spot for the smart Canadian singer; the next song he began to strum was one he had written himself, but easily, he added to Andrea. So Lucas began. Andrea possessed no musical skill herself, but she was an avid listener to such a beautiful piece of life, and this song made her spirits sparkle, with its major chords, based in G, and a key-change that made the candles jump and dance, and Lucas’ cat-like eyes gleam as much as her own.
Though Andrea was embarrassed, she found herself crouching forward over the flames as Lucas sang. His voice was heavenly, his accent rich when he hit the high notes; his voiced reminded Andrea of the glimmers on brass pans, smooth and full, and an ultimate reflection of some higher beauty. Andrea couldn’t understand the constriction in her chest or the giddy excitement this lullabic melody brought, but she knew that she could not be ungrateful. Lucas might have been made up of so many wrongs, Andrea concluded, but he had a way of retributing everything into this miracle of freedom’s love.
When Lucas had finished his song, describing in detail the shades of Andrea’s perfect hair and cresented eyes, and finished picking up on her wonderful qualities, Andrea didn’t know where to look first. The man laid down his guitar, which Andrea found herself following in the low-light, and then Lucas turned to her, victory written on his warm features. Andrea was still on her knees. She hadn’t realised, and she didn’t draw back now. She didn’t want to.
Lucas drew closer, his eyes picking out every movement of the surround, whilst still being fixated to hers.
“Happy birthday, darling. I hope that was okay.”
“You really are very beautiful.”
But it was impossible to resist him now.
They knelt on the rug-covered sand, face to face, and Lucas gently lifted his arms and swung them around Andrea’s neck; one lay in her hair, the other danced about the open back of her dress. She was breathless, the instrument, he, the maestro. Lucas leant in, all the time watching his dear, lovely Andrea. This time there was no phone to interrupt them; Andrea had left it at her house.
And when he kissed her, Andrea found no reason not to kiss Lucas back, caressing his pointed cupid’s bow with her own, the taste of saliva soft, strawberry-scented. It was passion, this feeling, Andrea knew, but the pleasure of it all was not something she was going to give up easily now. Lucas’ hands were darting beasts, as were her own, and Andrea’s thoughts slowly began to unstick themselves from the rush of intoxication of the melody and the gorgeous marvel that was Mr. Gorge. In the midst of the throbbing passion, there was one thought that knew exactly why Andrea had tried to keep away from the thief of hearts for all this time.
This is wrong.
They pulled away. Suddenly. Sharply. Andrea’s hands were her own again, balled, clutching at the green fabric around her knees, as if she could beg to it for the forgiveness she needed.
“I’m sorry,” she said, surprised at how changed Lucas had made her. “I should go.”
And with that, she picked up her sandals and ran off down the beach, back into her darkness.