The door creaked open a fraction with a whining un-oiled squeal, a tiny pink female set of fingers pulling it open.
A shaft of dying winter light cut through the gloom of the corridor, slowly revealing....
She wore a pristine white dressing gown, her feet bare, shivering slightly.
She looked pure, untouched.
Her hair, obviously just washed, gleamed supernaturally in the muted winter sun, which flew down rapidly behind the ceramic rooves of the terraced houses around us.
Our eyes met.
She fired me a nervous, wobbling smile.
A pretty vague look.
Almost looking through me rather than at me.
Her voice was unsteady as she spoke.
"...Oh...He-hello...Didn't expect you to to be calling here....."
She crept around the door, pulling it almost closed behind her.
She's obviously being listened to closely....
By someone really alert behind that door...
Most likely her mother....
"Yeah...y'know...... I was kinda worried about'cha....Not answering my calls and that...Just...Wanted to know if you were Okay.."
I brought up the flowers and offered them to her.
"I should be working at the match this afternoon...But I wanted to see you Real bad....First time for everything, right? Putting a female before football....Guess my priorities have changed..."
She made no attempt to accept my offering. She simply stood at the door, arms folded. Her eyes flickered about as she squirmed uncomfortably, a weak forced smile slowly fading on her lips.
She eventually locked her gaze on the path behind me, her voice sounding eerily flat and emotionless.
The intimation was clear that I should have been walking away, back down that stretch of uneven concrete slabs, there and then.
"I can't really speak to you right now.....It's not the right moment for this.."
She was cold. Her posture was all off. Arms folded tightly, expression remote.
Those hypnotic eyes that had originally hooked me, were flitting about again like humming-birds over a nectar-rich flower.
I slowly, with an attempt to act as cool as possible, slumped against the door-frame, an invisible attempt to draw myself closer to her body. The flowers in my right hand felt heavy, dead and lame all of a sudden.
"If it's...a problem...Me calling here outta the blue, I mean...Like this....I can understand, Linda. Just...say, if it is...and I'll bail out...."
For a split second, it appeared like I'd hit a raw nerve. She bit her upper lip, shifting where she stood. I wanted to keep the momentum rolling, however foolish it came across.
Something inside me pushed the dial towards "Super-charged", "animated and alive".
My speech felt lucid, flowing like poetry.
Not as if it was a cheaply constructed script.
"See...I can acknowledge the mistakes I made when it comes to you, baby. The other night drove home to me HOW MUCH I MISS YOU. TRULY. And I ain't just talkin' about the physical aspect...You are so much FUN to hang around with......More than any girl I've ever been with.
And I WANT YOU...I WANT to feel that joy again....
Just to make you smile is a buzz, honestly. Like no other.
I reached out to take her hand in my own.
She didn't pull it away, yet didn't squeeze it like I squeezed hers.
"And it gets better...I'm older now. More mature, focused. I Got a decent job on the go and my own place now....Plus, all my family are back together....Only thing missing is a straight-up female....And I think if we could just -"
She released my right hand and placed two fingers softly over my babbling lips.
Her face was all of a sudden, resolute.
"I'm sorry Fred...But I don't wanna relationship with you.....I can't tell you any other way........"
"I....I don't really know what to say............ To that...."
"I know.....I'm Sorry ....but that's how it is, babe....."