Rules of Engagement

They were walking from the waterfalls to his place. It was raining. It had been for a long time already, making it damn difficult to walk those hills. The mud kept sticking under their slippers till it became inches taller and much heavier, making the usually pleasant walk an ordeal.

She loved the mountains and the simple way of life. So much so that she grabbed any opportunity to be there with both hands. Even if it meant dealing with him. She did not dislike him, not anymore. She overcame already her initial aversion to him. Last year, she even ran away to escape his attention. That was then. It’s different now. She learned to know him better.

She didn’t regret knowing him much later. It was a necessary process being who he is. When was the first time she laid eyes on him? Seven- eight years ago? He was 24 then.

They never talk to each other until last year. Not even a passing ‘hello’ though they had met each other often enough. How could it be otherwise? She used to live… around.  

He was definitely one of the no-nos. Besides, she was not interested. If she found out earlier his real nature, would it be different? Would she change her mind about him? Give him a chance? Who knows…

Last year she talked to him for the first time. It was difficult not to, they were eating supper and he was there. In their culture it is very unethical not to ask any guest to have a meal with the hosts if the visitor happens to be there at meal time.  She did ask and he complied. The rest is history.

Now here they are. Not their first time. She had visited the place on more than one occasion. His family is known to her and vice versa. She was there before, only not ‘with’ him.

He removed her slippers from under her feet and offered her his own. It had more profile and had better grips; so he said. He washed hers in the small creek which running along side the dirt path. He also occasionally removed some stubborn mud that kept clinging under ‘his’ slippers for easy walking.

Always attentive. Very resourceful. She could not help being drawn to him. He was everything she was missing in her current relationship, and more. He is a man. She missed that. Revenge did cross her mind as one of his motives for being nice to her, but who cares? It felt good and only temporary they both knew it. In fact everybody knew.

Everybody… nobody said something but looks are enough. She could imagine what people think. They were both aware of the talking behind their backs. She cringed when she thought about it but… what the heck! She deserved to be… happy like everyone else. Even for a time. She refused to acknowledge that her situation and that of  him matter to here and now. She was aware of the consequences of course. She knew by experience. How many times she was in similar plights… she lost counts already. But this one was even trickier, considering his own predicaments. But c’est la vie. You cannot always follow the rules. It’s not only boring, it is also impossible.

There are limits of course. Always. So far, she didn’t jump over it… yet. And she was not planning to. But was she not planning to kiss him too?  Or kissed him back. She wondered if there was a difference.

She lost her balance! It happened so fast! One moment she was walking quite alright, and the next she found herself pirouetting with her both hands to keep her balance.

He was there before she hits the ground. He came from behind and put one arm behind her back, to keep her from falling. His palm went under her arm, almost cupping one breast! But he flicked it away from the wrist, at the very last moment, before it touches the danger zone.

He could have done it. Do it and pass it as an accident. A necessary manoeuvre to save the day. But he didn’t. And for all that he had done so far, all the caring, the sweetness, the teasing and the whole song and dance; it was that simple gesture that touched her the most.

Why? Because it shows respect. Granted, he maybe attracted to her (God knows since when) or trying to get his revenge, perhaps it was lust after all, who knows? But one thing is for sure, he respects her enough to do that. And if she is going to remember one thing from all those days that they were together, this probably would be it.

And for all the tender, thoughtful little things he done for her, it was also the deciding factor why she almost consider jumping off the limit. And probably she would. Given the time…


image: favin &