Rune Rofke - Glenn Emery
Word spread quickly about the farewell dinner. Everyone told me how much they’d miss me, and couldn’t I please stay? I told them maybe. We’d see what happens. I made it clear that it was their choice. Everyone was so bewildered. What could I possibly say that could make them not want me to stay? They acted as though it was a foregone conclusion that I would stay, and their enthusiasm fooled me into thinking it was going to go okay. But that feeling ebbed and flowed each day. One minute I would feel certain everything would work out, and the next I’d be depressed because I knew it wouldn’t. I just wanted to get it over with. The suspense was killing me.
The night before the dinner, I had a terrible feeling. And it didn’t go away. I worried most about Desiree. I needed to try to prepare her somehow.
The hour was late when I arrived at Desiree’s. She was ecstatic to see me. I tried to be cheerful, but she could see I was deeply troubled.
“We need to talk.”
We sat in her tiny living room, she across from me in an old overstuffed chair. Her face was that of a young woman who had found her true love. Her adoration was painful. The thought of breaking her heart was unbearable.
“As you know, Pete and Katie are having a farewell dinner for me tomorrow night -- ”
“ -- and I’ve specifically requested that everyone who I’ve become friends with be there, especially you.”
She continued staring at me, wondering where this was going. “And as you know, I’ve promised to explain everything about myself. I know people have questions about who I am and why I am here, so I am going to put my cards all out on the table. But here’s the thing. When I do, things are going to change dramatically. There’s is a very good chance no one will want me around anymore and they’ll insist I leave.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Desiree said. “What could you possibly say to make everyone mad at you? I’m expecting you to stay, just like you said you would.” For the first time, she pondered the possibility that by Saturday I might be gone. She leaned forward. “You will stay, won’t you?”
“That depends entirely on you, as I’ve said. I don’t want to leave. I want to stay. I want to stay here with you.” This made her smile. She sat back in the chair and relaxed a bit. If the decision were truly hers to make, then I would be staying. It was that simple to her.
I looked hard into her face, more serious at this moment than any time she’d ever seen me, and I had been pretty serious around her most of time. “You think you know how you will feel and act, but you don’t,” I said. “By tomorrow night, and in the days that follow, people -- including yourself perhaps -- will believe I’m the devil.”
“I don’t believe it,” she laughed. “That’s impossible.”
“I’m afraid you’ll find out yourself soon enough. But what I want to tell you right now is this: No matter what anyone says about me, I did not come here to harm you or anyone else. I genuinely care about you as God’s daughter. That is my only concern. I want you to try to remember the things we talked about. I want you to remember the good times we had together. And I want you to remember I never tried to mislead you or take advantage of you or treat you in any way except with the utmost respect for you as a human being.”
“You’ve been a perfect gentleman.”
“Desiree, they’re going to accuse me of trying to seduce you.”
“How could they? You won’t even hold my hand. And we’ve never even kissed.”
“I know, and that’s the reason. Believe me, I wanted to do those things. I am extremely attracted to you. But I knew the moment would come when those seemingly innocent gestures would come to have much greater significance, so I had to make sure we never had any kind of physical relationship. When they say I tried to seduce you, you will know that I did not. It doesn’t matter to me what they say. They may tell many lies. What matters is that you know the truth about what happened between us. Even in this place where we are all alone and no one can see us, you know I have never touched you.”
“It is true. You have never touched me that way.”
Desiree looked at me, still smiling. But something had come over her. Some strange thought had suddenly entered her head. Her stare grew vacant, as though she were somewhere else. She no longer cared to hear my silly notion that someone would suddenly accuse me of trying to seduce her.
“No one’s going to say anything bad about you,” she said. “You’re one of us. We all want you to stay.”
“I wish it were that simple.”
“What’s the matter? Are you married? Is that it?”
“No, no. Nothing like that.”
“An escaped convict?”
“No.” That one made me chuckle.
She’s motioned for me to come sit with her in that big comfortable old chair, to unburden my soul, to pour my secret into her trusting blue eyes. And for three-tenths of a second I contemplated doing just that. To confess my transgression and throw myself at her mercy. The words were starting to form in my throat. More than anything else in this life, I wanted to go over to her and bury my head in her lap and pour out my heart and tell her how much I loved her.
Here’s the picture: Only one small table light was turned on, creating an amber cocoon around her. She was sunk down into this fat chair, cherry-lemon hair splayed across the headrest, her held tilted ever so gently to the side. Her face -- her gorgeous sweet face -- was enshrouded in the dream state of utter, complete, total contentment. She was wearing a short skirt, and every male hormone is my body was kicking into high gear at the sight of her smooth, well-defined legs as they curled under her. I wanted to crawl across the carpet, kiss her knees and keep going all the way to the promised land. I wanted to inhale her intoxicating scent. And above all, I knew it’s what she wanted me to do. It was that close.
Desiree kept teasing me with her legs, trying to lure me closer. She couldn’t decide if I was a fool or a saint.
Just a few nights ago we were holding hands, walking silently along a dark deserted street, enjoying the fragrant balmy evening and each other’s company. She had rested her cheek against my shoulder and made my heart pound. It had killed me to do it, but in as nonchalant a manner as I could muster, I disengaged our entwined fingers. I hadn’t been this close to a girlfriend-type situation in five years, and as I neared the end of my 40-day condition, I felt Satan tempting me mightily. I was on the edge -- the very fucking precipice -- of screwing up royally.
And now, her legs were gently spreading and closing almost imperceptibly like flower petals, taunting me to give in. It would be so simple. If I touched Desiree, we both would die.
It was excruciating to watch her. She seemed to slowly writhe and contort herself as if we were actually doing it. Her eyes rolled back into her head and she groaned. I couldn’t take it anymore.
“I love you more than you’ll ever know.” I walked out while I still could.