The Lukewarm BathMature

She ventured downstairs wrapped in a towel and opened the door to find Sep stood there with a bunch of bright orange tiger lilies in one hand and a bottle of white wine in the other.  His eyes travelled the length of her body, and he broke into his smug sideways grin, as if her current state of undress had been contrived solely to please him.  Christina instinctively clasped at the point where the towel was folded.

 

He held his arms out wide in an almost apologetic gesture.

 

‘Sort of a get well soon/hope your already better kind of visit.’  His smile more playful now.

 

He handed her the flowers and wine, forcing her to let go of the towel and rely on providence.  He had half turned to leave, a polite gesture to assure her he was not expecting to be invited in.  Her fingers around the neck of the bottle, it was chilled – ready to drink, it would be rude not to invite him in.

 

‘Thanks Sep, how thoughtful.’  She blurted trying not to sound too shocked and goofy.  A man, apart from Ricky, was bringing her wine and flowers.  The situation hadn’t arisen before and she wasn’t sure of the protocol.  ‘Would you like to join me for a glass?’

 

‘I can tell by your attire that you had other plans.’  He said leaning in closer through the doorframe sweeping his eyes over her once more.

 

Christina was annoyed that he had brought attention to her towel, she felt like all the cards were in his hand, while she stood before him like a fool.

 

‘Come on in, I’ll go and pop some clothes on and we’ll have a glass of wine.’  She was the perfect façade of confidence, pretending that nothing could faze her less than standing here in her towel.  She moved to the side holding the door open to let Sep pass.

 

‘Don’t get dressed on my account.’  He mumbled on his way past, laughing quietly to himself.

 

‘I heard that cheeky!’  She said laughing back ‘Go sit down and try not to cause trouble’ She chastised, motioning to the living room.

 

She rushed into the kitchen, filled the sink with enough water to cover all the lily stems and put them carefully in the water.  For a long moment she got lost in the pattern of tiny brown specks against the fierce orange petals.  It made her think of what the sun would look like at the end of the world, the colour so vivid, bursting out at her.  She shook her head to snap herself out of the daydream.  Jogging upstairs Christina grabbed her clothes off the bathroom floor and shrugged back into them.  She returned to the living room with two glasses of wine.

 

‘So you didn’t tell me the other day that you got that job? Congratulations, so much for a disastrous interview’ he was casually sat on the sofa with one leg tucked under him so that the trunk of his body was facing her.

 

‘Thanks... Err I was wondering actually, what happened the other night?  I remember being in the car with you, then after that not much really.’

 

‘There’s not much to tell Christina, you passed out, I took you to hospital, called Sandy, she called Ricky and now… now here we are.’

 

She couldn’t shake the feeling that something had happened to her, that he had done something to her.  She gulped, Sep was more than charming, in his demeanour was an aura of power, something that assured you he was firmly in control of any given situation.

 

‘We left work at three thirty, and I didn’t get admitted until gone eight.’

She tried not to sound accusatory.

 

‘I don’t know what to tell you Christina.  That’s what happened, at my place you passed out, I took you straight to hospital, maybe that’s what time the doctor saw you?’  He offered.

 

‘Your place?  What were we doing at your place?’  There was an edge to her voice now, not knowing, the feeling that she was losing her purchase in reality again, made her nervous.

 

‘We were going to have a hot drink.  It was cold in the car and you didn’t look too good.  Am I under suspicion of something here?’  His eyebrow was raised defensively, challenging her to contradict his story.

 

‘Of course not!’  She said emphatically ‘I was just trying to fill in the gaps – I don’t remember anything after us sliding on the ice.’

 

She felt ridiculous; if any harm had come to her the doctors would have noticed something.  What exactly did she suspect had happened? 

 

‘Did the doctors find out what caused it?’  He asked steering the conversation on while leaning over to refill their glasses.

 

‘Not a thing.’  Christina shrugged.  Her pathetic hot flushes were the last thing on her mind.

 

The drink and the conversation flowed freely, time drifted past without them noticing it’s speedy pace.

 

‘Tell me more about your name’ Christina’s voice was more flirty than usual, now that the wine had taken away her inhibitions.

 

He laughed and reclined back with his arm crooked behind his head.

 

‘Well there are several myths about the seventh son of the seventh son.’  He smiled and looked over at her, a born entertainer enjoying his attentive audience.  ‘In Romania the seventh son is fated to become a vampire.’

 

‘Are you a vampire?’  She gasped, insincerely.

 

‘Maybe I am, maybe I’m not.’  He teased.

 

‘You can’t be anyway.’  She waggled her finger at him.

 

‘Oh… and why is that?’

 

‘Because you’re drinking wine, and vampires only drink blood, and besides we’re not in Romania.’  She giggled.

 

‘Well, My grandmother is from Romania you know, a gypsy.’

 

‘No – you’re having me on?’ 

 

‘I am not!  And less of your back chat you, or I’ll have to drain you!’  He drew his lips back from his teeth to act the vampire, the expression gave Christina a sudden flashback to the wolf in the flames, not just in a dream but a real memory of Septimus’ eyes and mouth illuminated by the orange glow of fire.

 

‘Your grandmother!’  Christina became animated at the recollection.  Images were starting to come back to her ‘I met your grandmother, she had a red shawl on.’  She turned to him trying to meet his eye.

 

‘That’s right he said.  I live with her.’  Calm.  Unreadable.  ‘Anyway, I should go, it’s late and we both have work in the morning.’

 

He got up to leave, Christina followed him to the door just in time to see Ricky returning from the pub.  He froze in the doorway and she couldn’t help but look guilty knowing that she could have had more self-control and flirted with Sep less.

 

‘Ricky, this is Sep.’ She smiled.  ‘Sep, this is Ricky.’

 

The two men shook hands awkwardly before Sep continued advancing for the door.

 

‘Thanks for taking Christina to the hospital.’  Ricky called after him after a long pause.

 

‘No problem’ Sep replied stepping out into the dark and disappearing into the street.

 

Christina turned to Ricky, the atmosphere was so tense, neither wanting to stir up an argument, they were unsure what to say to each other.

 

‘Have fun?’  Christina finally offered. 

 

‘Sure did, did you?’  He said, wanting really to ask what this strange man had been doing in his home with his girlfriend.

 

‘Yeah, Sep just called round with some get well flowers and we had a glass of wine.  Anyway I’m going into the bath.’  She wanted to get out of there before she betrayed how tipsy she was.

 

As Ricky sat staring at the two empty wine glasses on his table, Christina stood naked gazing at her lukewarm bath.  She looked into the still water contemplating, Sep had taken her mind off things and she felt guilty for it.  She should have been too torn from grief to laugh. 

The End

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