I woke up this morning with this story fluttering in my mind. It's not going to fit into any 'genre' or anthology, so it's my random gift to you. There are no beasts involved in this one - just a Grandma! It's not edited, just raw from the fingertips.
One Night Stand
Grandma wraps me in a hug and the plastic bag with Indian takeaway swings wildly against my leg. As her arms envelop me, the scent of earth, mulch, jasmine and roses encircles.
“You’ve been in the garden, Grandma.” I don’t make it a question, it’s what Grandma does. Others knit, play cards or read, but not my gran. She’s out there wrestling weeds every moment there’s sunshine. Not just her garden either, she started up a little business and has her clients to tend to.
“I knew you were bringing dinner, so I only just got in. I haven’t even showered. Sorry.”
I laugh at her veiled attempt at an apology. “As if I care.” We let go of each other and walk into the cottage. It’s like another big, flower-scented hug too. Lived-in and loved, is probably the best way to describe it. Others in my family use much less flattering terms but this is my kind of house.
Grandma turns to look at me before she fills the kettle. Under the harsh bare bulb in the kitchen, her gaze is a little too discerning and I scurry about unpacking the dinner and grabbing plates and cutlery.
“You’re upset.” Grandma frowns, but says no more while she fills the kettle, tosses leaves into the teapot, and grabs her huge mugs.
I ignore how perceptive she is and focus on food. Usually we just help ourselves but today I’m delicately spooning mounds of rice to each plate, and depositing small tastings of each of the four dishes around the rice. Naan bread and pappadums, I place on the side of each plate. By the time I’ve got all this done, Grandma’s poured the hot water on the tea leaves and warmed our mugs. She brings them to the table and sits.
“Is it your mother?” she asks as she fusses with her fork and spoon. I know she’s deciding which one to use. Then she looks up, sees my grin, and moves the knife and fork aside.
“It’s nothing.” I shake my head. “Mum’s just the same. I leave her be as much as I can. We only make each other cranky.” I grin because Grandma knows exactly how Mum is. Whatever genes Grandma and I have, Mum has the opposite.
After a few bites accompanied by Grandma’s decadent moans about the food, she puts down her spoon and glares at me. It’s a soft glare, with a wry twist of lips, and a little sigh. “You left a piece of your heart somewhere, Ron.”
My lips pull in tight and I squish down on them but it doesn’t help. Not a bit. A teardrop leaks from the corner of my left eye and skitters down my cheek. Another follows from my right. I brush them with the back of my hand, pretending they haven’t leaked at all but there’s no fooling Gran.
“Oh, Veronica.” She’s around to my chair and holding me in her arms within seconds. And she’s used my full name, with such passion, that it makes my tears leak again.
“It’s just a guy. Nothing major.”
Gran snorts, as if she doesn’t want to call me a liar but is anyway. “Tell me about him.” There’s no demand from Gran, it’s an invitation. Warm and gentle. Beckoning and waiting. Patient and caring.
I so want to tell her but how can I? It was a one night stand. A guy I’ll never see again. But she’s right, he took a piece of my heart with him and I’m not sure how that happened or what it means. So I shake my head and pull away from her just a little.
She doesn’t make a sound, just pats me before she lets me go and she resumes her seat. The silence doesn’t last because she fills me in on her gardens. She chatters happily and I know I don’t have to say a word. I know I can sit with my thoughts, and Gran’s warmth and find my peace. And I should. I should do just that.
As I chew the last bit of Naan, I find myself looking at Gran in a different way. I see her love. That’s not what I see differently, I always see that. It’s the unconditional part of the love that I don’t think I’ve noticed before. I’ve taken that for granted. Only just realising that not once in my twenty-four years has she judged me. No matter what I’ve done, she’s loved me. Even when I helped her weed and pulled out her bulbs. Even when I over-pruned her magnolia. Even when I fight with Mum.
“I met a guy last night.”
Gran stops talking about rhododendrons and says, “What was his name?”
A smile erupts because his name was not the first thing I thought she’d ask. I thought she’d say something that included the word ‘nice’ but now I think of that, Gran isn’t exactly a ‘nice’ person. She’s wild, loving, rebellious, gentle, nurturing, fun…nothing as placid as nice.
“Where did you meet him?”
“At the club.” I hesitate and Gran doesn’t pepper more questions, she seems to know there’s more to this hesitation and it’s not the end of sentence pause. “He was with the band. He left this morning. With the band.”
“And there was a connection between you?”
I nod even as the frown deepens, cutting into my forehead and tugging at my flesh. “That doesn’t make sense, Gran. I shouldn’t be like this. I knew what it was, so why’s it bothering me?”
“Is it bothering you, or is it him?”
Gran’s question was exceptionally perceptive, if a little personal. How the hell had I ended up discussing a one-night stand with my seventy-two year old grandmother?
“Him.” I shrug. “He’s with the band. Transient. We didn’t swap phone numbers. Yet he’s under my skin. I don’t know why.”
“This hasn’t happened before?”
“Not with any of the others. No.” The question was so lightly asked, and so cleverly phrased that I spilled more than I intended. I shove my hand across my mouth. “Shit, Gran. I don’t make a habit of one-nighters, but sometimes…” I’m not sure how to finish that sentence.
“A girl has a need.” Gran grins a little too cheekily.
I’m hit by a wave of shock. “Gran, you haven’t?” Then I realise how judgemental I sound, and how she never sounds like that with me, and I start to giggle. Not in a mature twenty-four year old way, but like I’m a ten year old incapable of holding a huge secret. Gran starts to laugh and then we’re both snorting and giggling like teenagers.
When I have a little more control, and Gran’s poured more tea, I look up at her and I know my eyes are overly rounded with excitement and intrigue. “Tell me all.” I still sound like I’m twelve and agog.
“You first,” she says, as if she’s allowing me to walk ahead of her or something mundane. “Tell me what happened last night and why he got to you. Then I promise to tell you of the man who rattled me.”
There’s just something in the way she says that which makes me think she’s not just had one quick shag, but she’s had one that rattled her. Sunday night just got interesting. Not that they’re ever dull. I love spending Sunday evenings with Gran but tonight is a level I never expected up to step on.
“I don’t know where to start.” It’s not the best opening but I was scratching around for what I should be telling her and what should remain secret.
“When you first laid eyes on him.” Gran states it as if it’s the most obvious place to start.
I guess she’s right. “The band were playing, and they were good. I was up dancing with a bunch of girls, and this guy moved to the edge of the stage. You know, from backstage to just hovering in the shadows. I was drawn to him, his movement I think. No one else seemed to notice him but I couldn’t stop looking at him. He was in the shadows, so there wasn’t a lot to see, but he felt magnetic.” I laugh at myself. “I know that’s stupid, but I don’t know how else to describe it. I could not look away.”
I’m back there, my stomach tangling, my heart taking turns between frozen and thundering. I know he’s looking at me too, yet how I know that, I’ve no clue. But I’m dancing for him now. Moving sinuously, with extra sway in my hips, extra thrust of my breasts, extra lifting of my head. My back arches and I want to be dancing against him, with his body sliding against mine. It’s so weird because it feels just like that’s happening, so I keep up this seductive movement even when no one else is moving slowly.
“He hovered there for the whole show. Not really coming out of the shadows. Dressed in black. Scurrying across the stage with whatever the band members needed without lifting his face to the light. No matter how desperately I wanted to see him, he didn’t show his face.” I groan. “Do you know how frustrating that is?”
Gran chuckles, and brings me back into her kitchen, after I’d momentarily popped back in time. “I have some idea,” she says with that same cheeky grin. Oh, her story is going to be good! “When did you see him?”
“After the band finished. We were standing near the stage, bopping to whatever was playing and working out how we were all getting home. He called from the edge of the stage and asked if we wanted the discarded plectrums or drumsticks. Some groupies go for that stuff.”
Gran was biting her lip but then she leaned on her hand and said, “So which did you take?”
Laughing, I shook my head. “The others grabbed it all. I was…I don’t know…seeing him in the light, or almost the light. He had a cap on so there was still shadow but it was the most I’d seen of him and I was planted to the floor. Not because he was beautiful or anything, just because he was there, near me.” I feel myself slip back into that moment.
He’s looking at me. Not full-on staring but taking glances, looking at me from the side of his eye, ducking his head and peering up at me. I break out in shivers because I’m not beautiful. I’m not usually the one to attract a guy. I mean, I’m not unattractive but when I’m with my friends, it’s not usually me that someone is taken by at first.
I want him to do something, say something. And then I wonder what I’m waiting for. I can speak to him just as easily, or maybe even easier.
“I walked up to him and asked if he’d like a drink. Sweat was pouring from him and his shirt was soaking wet. He shook his head and said he was working. I laughed, and told him I was only shouting him water. He changed his mind then and nodded. So I went to the bar to get ice water. When I got back, the girls were all leaving, so I said I’d be right and they left.”
“Don’t you girls look after one another?”
I nod, puzzled because we usually do. So why had they left me? “It was the pub in my street, so I guess they figured I’d be right.”
Gran murmured, and she may have said, ‘Fate,’ but I wasn’t focused on her, I was still confused about my friends’ non-reaction to me picking up. Or hadn’t I really picked up then?
“I gave him the water. The very tips of our fingers brushed and we looked at each other. Right at each other.” I could have been lost in his gaze forever, but I wasn’t going to be melodramatic. “His lips moved into a tiny kind of a smile, then he said, ‘I’ll probably be an hour packing up.’ I told him I’d wait and pointed to the bar.”
I sat and watched him work. I watched the play of muscles as he moved and lifted and lugged. I watched his throat as he swallowed. I took him more water and left it on the side of the stage so I didn’t disturb him. I waited and watched, content.
“I’m never content, and yet I sat there. I don’t know why.”
“You were in exactly the right place, at exactly the right time.”
I looked sharply at Gran. “For what?”
Gran shrugged. “Destiny. I guess that’s what you call it. Moments or days where things are just easy, everything falls into place, it’s peaceful and happy. Those are the days I think of as the days where the planets aligned, where fate worked, where destiny occurred. Like you met up and crossed with your right path.”
“Gran?!” I’m judging again, but I had no idea Gran had this mystical side.
“You haven’t had that before?
I nod, even while I’m shaking my head. “I’m not sure I know you, Gran.”
This time the cheeky grin was tempered by a sweetness that made my heart melt. “You know me as your grandmother, not as a woman. That’s all.”
That makes sense. It’s also a little sad. Why have I not noticed that she’s a woman before? Or rather, of course I’ve noticed that, but why have I never thought of her as a woman with emotion, needs, partners, desires?
“When he finished, you took him right home, didn’t you?”
My eyes must be out on stalks. “How did you know?”
Gran gave that shrug with a dash of cheekiness, and I’m beginning to suspect her story and mine aren’t going to be too different at all.
“It was as if we’d discussed it already. Or like we’d done it night after night. He took my hand and we walked out of there. We walked home, and he asked if I minded if he had a shower. I washed his clothes while he washed himself, like it was every day routine. It wasn’t even odd having him in my house.”
I wasn’t going to give Gran all the juicy details of how I joined him in the shower and we ran the hot water out. Of how natural it was to be with him. How we seemed to know the places that drove the other insane without even thinking. It was the hottest damn shower I’d ever had and technically we hadn’t done the deed yet.
We went to bed and the deed blew my mind. His cock was perfect and drove me insane. I almost drowned him in my pleasure, and I came so many times I lost count. He pummelled me so hard it should have hurt, yet there wasn’t the slightest tinge.
Lying beside each other afterwards, we touched and talked. The touching wasn’t exactly sexual, but it was erotic as all hell. His fingertips brushed the back of my hand and if he had have kept going, I’m sure I’d have orgasmed, but inside I slid my hand against his and our fingers brushed and stroked. It was the most intimate gesture which led to a most intimate conversation, or maybe it was the other way around.
“We talked about things that I haven’t ever talked to anyone about, and I got the feeling he was the same. Deep things. Things that hurt. Personal things that opened up the soul. We shared, cared, encouraged, supported and loved. It seemed like love. It was deep, so deep. I don’t know how to explain it.”
“I know, Ronnie. I know.”
Her understanding made tears prickle at the backs of my eyes. “I’ve never felt that way with anyone. Ever.” My head fell into my hands as I tried to process, and find words to explain. “I spent less than eight hours with him, and yet it seemed like a lifetime.”
“And this morning you parted, easily. As easily as you’d come together. It seemed right, peaceful, content.”
“As the day went on, everything felt less right. It didn’t make sense. It was all sorts of wrong. And you wanted him back. You wanted to do it all again.”
Gran smiled wistfully and reached across the table to close her fingers around mine. She squeezed. “Those connections are so rare, Ronnie. Precious, incredible, and yet so very rare.”
Gran shook her head. “I don’t know. I’ve decided they’re a fate thing, where paths have to cross. Sometimes I’ve felt something pass between us, like a healing or a lesson. Other times I don’t have a clue why they happen. And I mean the easy days or moments, not just the people.”
“How do you go on? Do I find the band again?”
“That’s up to you, Ronnie. It has to be your choice of what you do.”
“Did you chase your man, Gran?”
Her head shakes slightly, and her lips press together. “It was a one-off. He came into my life for a moment and left me a better person for his visit.”
“Oh, Gran.” I clutch my chest because my heart aches. A deep sadness seemed to accompany those words that touch me more than I can explain. “You don’t ever forget them?”
Gran’s smile is a beautiful mix of sadness and joy. “You never forget important things, they’re buried inside you much too deeply. Love, it’s a part of your very being.”
I nod even though I still don’t understand. And I wonder if today is one of those moments, and in another fifty years, I might be in Gran’s chair and my granddaughter will be asking me about a man who crossed her path for a few important hours.
I move to Gran this time, and she stands when I get there. We wrap our arms around each other and hold each other tightly.
“I love you, Grandma.”
“And I love you, Veronica.” Gran slides her rough palm across my cheek and smiles into my eyes. I feel that love warming me, filling me with comfort and knowledge. “You make me so proud.”