Learning to smile

“If I stand all alone, will the shadow hide the color of my heart;
blue for the tears, black for the night’s fears.
The star in the sky don’t mean nothin’ to you, they’re a mirror.”

(Rod Steward-“I don’t wanna talk about it”)

Olympic Beach, Greece

-Here…take this one! Is bigger! Why throwing only the little white rocks in the water, when you could throw this ugly big black rock? Now, Ali, repeat after me: with this big ugly rock…

-with this big ugly rock…

-I’m throwing away…

-i’m throwing away…

-All the pain and sorrow and anger…

-all the…I can’t! I wish i could, Henri…but the pain and the sorrow are still there. I think i’ll never smile…

-You will! Not only smile, but laugh and love and feel…Ali, you made this?

-What?

-All this big water lying under the cliffs?

-Don’t be silly…it’s the sea…

-No, you don’t fool me! Taste it! It’s salty, like your tears…you cried so much that you created the sea? Please…don’t drown us, you creator of the seas!

I started to laugh again even if my tears were still running down my face. He wrapped his arms around my shoulders keeping me warm and safe. I looked into his eyes…

-Your eyes are blue…like the sea…

-and my shirt is all wet from your salty tears! And you don’t even know how to remove the white stains produced by salt! Cause you never eat salt…you’re made of sugar, my sweet girl…

-Henri…do you ever talk seriously?

-i spoke to your father…

-oh, i understand…he convinced you that i’m a spoiled rich girl, an irresponsible and a liar…and that he and Phi…

-Stop! Stop talking or i throw you in the water! Look at me, Ali…now i’m serious. I didn’t recognize your father, he’s not himself anymore. He wanted me to convince you to accept…I told him my opinion and i guess i was a little harsh to him. I told him that you’re not for sell and that he just lost my respect for him. It’s true, Ali…he wants you to accept a relationship with Phillipe, regardless of your feelings. He was even capable of threatening me if i don’t “bring” you back the next day. Like you’re an object, a doll…God, i’m still furious…

-are you going to leave me? Because of my father, and Phillipe…and all my problems. Don’t…don’t leave me, please don’t…i’m so incredibly alone…

-Ali, did you heard what i said to you? Did you listened to me? I just said that i lost my respect for your father. I never said one word about leaving you! Sometimes, Ali, i feel like i’m talking to a big child! A big crying baby…look, i brought you here, no one knows where you are…no one will find you. We’re returning to Monte Carlo only when you’re ready to face the disaster. I’m with you in this! What else do you want me to tell you? Fight your insecurities or they are going to consume you. And never argue with me, cause i can talk more and faster than you!

-Henri, i’m so grateful to you…

-Show me how grateful you really are…let’s go back to the resort…

-what do you mean? i hope you’re not suggesting…

-Again…you’re talking over me…you’ll never learn, do you? Now listen to me! I wanna see you wearing that sexy red dress…we’re going to a club to dance till morning! Understood?

-Let me tell you a secret…Henri…come closer…this game of yours, playing dominant with me…my dear…it’s not working. Cause, you know what? I know how to play it too…only that i choose not to…You see…you cannot pretend to be a lion if deep inside your heart all you want…all you desire…all you need…

-yes…don’t stop…

-…is to stay at my feet…hoping i’ll give you the chance to kiss my little finger…

He started to laugh.

-Girl, you’re dreaming!

-Now, catch me if you can! See who gets first in the room. I bet i’m faster! You can’t catch me…wolf-man!

-You’re playing with fire, little girl!

Yes, i know…

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If only for tonight…

“Tengo marcado en el pecho todos los dias y el tiempo no me dejo estar aqui
Tengo una fe que madura que va conmigo y me cura desde que te conoci”

(Gloria Estefan-“Hoy”)

Predejane, Serbia

-This place is beautiful! Look, Henri, we’re surrounded by mountains! It’s so peaceful and i can see the stars…so bright in this darkness…Henri, what are you doing?

-I’m thinking…witch side of the bed should i choose? Difficult…and i asked for two beds…i guess they thought we’re such a nice couple…

-How convenient…but i always sleep on the right side! And be careful, i have nightmares and i’m talking in my sleep…so, stay away…Anyway, why did we stopped by in this place? I thought we’re gonna cross the border…

-We stopped because you, my dear, said “my whole body is in pain, i never wanna ride a motorcycle again!”. Remember? And then you said you’re hungry and thirsty and you need a shower. And  then you took out your helmet because your hair was “a disaster”. And then you…

-So untrue…i bet you planned this from the beginning! A nice motel in the mountains…a nice french bed, you and me, a romantic dinner on the terrace…with home made bread and a great home made cheese. What’s the name? kaimac…yes. By the way, i wanna eat kaimac in the morning…and i want the fresh baked bread too…

-No! Tomorrow you’re gonna eat meat, like it or not! They have pleskavita, it’s great, much tasty then any cheesburger you have ever eaten…

-I wont eat meat! You cannot make me eat meat! That’s it!

I started to laugh like i didn’t laugh for months…with Henri everything was so simple, like he was my best friend. Actually…that moment, he really was my best friend…my only friend. But do i really know anything about friendship? Or love? How could i know…when the people i trusted the most betrayed me…

-Hey! You…Earth to Alicia! The runaway girl! Yes, you! What’s with that sad face?

-Nothing…

-Look, Alicia…don’t say it’s nothing. You’re so desperate to run and hide…i cannot even begin to imagine what’s in your heart…It’s ok to cry if you feel like…what your father and Phillipe did is unbelievable…deep inside my mind i still hope you misunderstood. Tomorrow i’ll talk to your father…

-But you wont tell him where i am! Promise me! Cause if you plan to do that, i’ll go away right now. I’ll cross the mountains by myself…

-…with bare foots and a bag full of kaimac! Please take some bread with you, will you? And some meat to give it to the wolfs! So they wont eat you. You know…they are not bad…you’re just so sweet…irresistible…

-Now you’re making fun! And you’re being mean! You…wolf-man!

-What did you just said? I’m a wolf-man? Ok, there’s just one thing left to do with you, little girl! Come here, lay on the bed…give me those runaway foots of yours…i’ll give you the best foot massage in the world! By the way…you’ll need it if you wanna cross the mountains by yourself!

-Henri…

He looked at me with the most warm look i ever saw…

-yes…tell me, you like it?

-you have magic hands…I just wanted to thank you for being my friend. I’m sorry for being so difficult…

-You’re not difficult, Alicia. Can i call you Ali, like all your friends? Ok, Ali…you’re just human. What happened to you lately…all the things you told me about your relationship with Phillipe…any person would go insane…You’re one of the strongest people i ever met, but it was enough. Pain, abuses…and a father who rather sell his only child then giving away his business. No wonder you’re so scared…And i know you heard this before and it was only a lie…but this time it’s true…you’re safe with me.

-I feel safe…and completely relaxed. Henri…if i close my eyes…you wont disappear? And you wont turn into something bad…

-Now you’re talking in your sleep and you’re having nightmares! Stop talking like this or i’ll tickle you to death…good…i made you smile. Close your eyes and try to get some sleep, we have a long trip in the morning…

-you think they are searching for me? Phillipe…my father…

-i think they called the local Police, the french one, Interpol, FBI…and Secret Services! They must be crazy not to…Any man who lost you would search for you. I know i would…till the end of the world…Ali, you’re sleeping?

-almost…and you’re buying me kaimac? with…home-made bread…in the morning? cause now i’m so tired…

I thought i heard him saying something but i felt lost in a dream. The night was dark and cold…in the mountains of a country i never knew before…without any friend except for this man who, till yesterday, hated me…

…but still surrounded by Light and Love, like never before.

A different kind of game…

“I want to break free from your lies

You’re so self satisfied I don’t need you

I’ve got to break free

God knows, God knows I want to break free.”

(Queen-“I want to break free”)

Tess was obvious tormented…she reached out her hand and gave me a piece of paper…

-Here is his number…i’m so sorry, Aly…i told him all about you…

-All about me? You mean…God, Tessa, how could you?!

-He made me do it! And he told me to give you his number…but don’t call him!

-Tess…

I tried to be mad at her, but i was extremely worried…my friend, the one that always made fun about guys…the one who liked to humiliate any man in intimacy…how could one man reduce her to…that? Frightened, unable to explain, on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

-Tess…let me help you…i can see how afraid you are. He did something to you, don’t he? He’s hurting you? Is he blackmailing you about something? Tell me all about…we’ll find a way out of this…

-Stay out of this…

-You just told him all you know about me…it’s not fair…the Tess i know would never gossip about her best friend…

-Promise me, Aly…you won’t contact him…

-Sure, i promise.

And in the minute that she left my apartment, i was calling Phillipe. He was surprised…more surprised when i invited him to my place, in Nice. I told him that it’s my turn to offer him coffee. I felt sad…i really liked him. But the reactions i saw on Tess…and the way he talked to me before…

It was strange for me that i didn’t felt afraid…

One hour later

-Thank you so much for calling me and inviting me here. Your apartment is beautiful…and what a view you got there…

-I’m glad you like it. Phillipe…i hope that you can talk to me as friend, because what i saw before, at the coffee shop…let’s just say that it made me have second thoughts about seeing you again.

-So why did you do it? Why am i here? he asked calmly.

-I wanted to show you how i look without tears in my eyes.

He started laughing.

-You look gorgeous. Now…the real reason.

-Tess told you about me…my relationship with Peter, the way i mess it all up, now with Matt…I may be crazy, but i thought i could convince you to open up to me…tell me all about yourself.

-There’s nothing to tell. Just one thing…Theresa is in a bad state of mind, if you are her friend, take her to therapy. She played a game beyond her powers and when you play with fire, you get burned.

-I know…

-You know? How could you know?

-Look!

I showed him my burned fingers. He started laughing again.

-Look, Phillipe! Hand…fire…that’s the result. But it was Peter’s fault. He distracted me. All because he does not believe i can cook…and he does not even like me, not to mention about love. And see how strong i am? Not a single tear when i say this! I’m strong and brave and i’m not afraid so…you can tell me all about you and Tess. Now why are you laughing?

-You need to learn to say no…At least from time to time…You ever said NO in your entire life? It’s a power word…a safety word if you wanna think this way…only that you never use it. If you want…i can teach you. I promise you that saying NO to Peter (and to Matt and to Liz and maybe to your parents as well) will get you exactly where you wanna be. Think about that as if it were a new game…a different kind of game…

-Wait a minute…i said NO before. I know how to say NO. You don’t have to teach me that…

-Really…

He grabbed my waist and pushed me against the wall and, without having any time to analyse, i found myself unable to move. My heart started to beat faster…i could feel how strong he was…he was holding my both hands so i had no chance to push him. He gently touched my face, running his fingers on my lips, the look on his face made me think he’s gonna kiss me.

-Alicia…i want to kiss you…i can see that you’re frightened…maybe you don’t wanna do that…you need to tell me now…

I closed my eyes trying to concentrate…i couldn’t quite understand what he was saying. I wanted to reject him, to feel afraid of him, even to hit him real hard, but it was something else. I felt like all i want is just…to let this happen. I wanted him to kiss me…so bad…

-…if you’re not saying anything…i’ll just suppose you want me to kiss you. And maybe i’ll do more than that…

-NO!

He let go of me in the instant that i pronounced the word. I was still trembling…

-See…was it that hard? You need practice…try it, you’ll get more control over your life.

I was unable to speak. So…that was a game, a way to show me what he mean…he never intended to kiss me…God…i felt really stupid.

-Alicia…You know i wouldn’t do that…forcing a kiss. Our first kiss, if it will ever happen, will be because you want it too, not because i’m using force to make you do it. I’m sorry if i got too far with that…

-Let me try, Phillipe! NO, i don’t want to play this kind of game with you. And NO, you don’t have my permission to kiss me or to even touch me. Now our meeting it’s over. NO, you cannot stay here anymore. And if you do anything to Tess it will be a big NO to our friendship as well. Is it good, Phillipe? Satisfied?

He smiled…

And then he left.

Standing all by myself, crazy thoughts were running trough my mind. What if he’s right? I never said no to Peter…i was always there…giving in to his desire…to my desire. My insecurities, my fears…did i ever rejected anybody? No…because being abandoned was far more destructive to me then any other feeling. It’s not about feeling used…not physical. It’s about putting all my feelings and emotion on a silver plate. For him…

Someone’s bound to get burned…

“Ever worry that it might be ruined
And does it make you wanna cry?
When you’re out there doing what you’re doing
Are you just getting by?
Tell me are you just getting by…”

(Pink-“Try”)

A sunny morning in a beautiful day…First day from the rest of my life…my life without him. Or, should i say…my life without deceiving feelings…

The phone was ringing. Since last night…still ringing…i turned off the answering machine. I’m sure it’s him…i won’t answer. Of course, he’s worried…guilty conscience…but i’m stronger then ever before…

-Hello…

-Aly, finally…it was Liz and her voice sounded strange…Why don’t you answer the phone? Can you do me a favor, please? I feel horrible…i think i got the flu…

-So sorry, Liz…tell me, what can i do? Need anything? Can i bring you a chicken soup? God…hope she’ll say no…i have no clue how to cook…

-You’re so sweet, Aly…you’re sure it’s not too much trouble? I wouldn’t ask you, but my boyfriend is out of town, i’m here alone and i have high temperature…

-Please, Liz…just stay in bed…get some rest, the chicken soup will be ready in about an hour…i’ll bring it to you…

And now what am i doing? I never cooked…once i tried…it was painful…I should call Maria and ask her to bring me soup! But what if Peter finds out? No! I have to cook myself…let’s see…it can’t be that hard…boil the water…and i got some chicken and vegetables…but when to put them in the water?…The door bell…

I opened the door…there he was! Smiling like nothing ever happened…

-Peter…what are you doing here? I’m really busy right now…

-Can i come in? What are you doing? You’re cooking? Really? he started laughing so hard…it made me angry.

-Yes…chicken soup for Liz…she’s sick…

-And you decided to kill her? To end with her misery? he continued laughing…

-You know…i could be a great cooker…just because you never let me cook, that doesn’t mean…

-Aly, honey…last time you cooked…we ended up at emergency room…remember? And the doctors said…

-…i know…that it should be against the law for me to cook…but what they know…they were upset cause i shouted at them…but they were causing me pain…

-They were trying to help you…you were bleeding and yelling and crying your eyes out…Aly! Be careful…you’re too close to…

Too late…i was too close to the flame…i felt a burning pain on my right hand…I turned quickly…too quickly…the (what it supposed to be) chicken soup ended on the floor…boiling water…Peter grabbed me and saved me (again!) from more serious injuries…

-This is only your fault! i said with the desperation of being burned…You distracted me with your stories…I don’t even know what you’re doing here…after last night…

-Give me this hand…we need to put it under cold water…then we’ll see how serious is…

-No! Don’t touch it! It’s hurting me every time i touch it…what am i gonna do? I burned my hand! Peter…what if it’s gonna be infected…

I started to cry…He stood there with a helpless look in his eyes and an amused smile on his face.

-I could take you to the hospital…maybe they forgot about you…

-Now you’re making fun…and i’m hurting…you really don’t care at all…

He looked at me with that disarming smile…grabbed my chin and gently kissed my eyes…i was still trying to stay mad…but then he kissed my lips…slowly…gently…caressing me with his hands…

-Magic kisses…and now we’ll take care of your hand…look…it’s a small burn…for someone who plays with fire, it’s just a small price…think about that poor chicken…lying there on the floor…

I started laughing trough tears…

-God, it’s late! I promised Liz i’ll bring her soup! What am i doing?!

-Well…you’re lucky this time! I’ll call Maria…she makes such a delicious chicken soup…and i’ll ask her to go to Liz’s place…don’t want you to catch the flu…and you’re even more lucky…i’ll clean the floor for you and i’ll feed you with chicken soup…yes, you’ll eat too…you’re burned. I’ll make sure you’ll survive…

-I could get used to that…you, taking care of me…i think i’ll keep burning myself…

-That’s because you’re playing with fire… you’ll keep getting burned…

-I know…

The chicken soup was truly delicious…like the perfect medicine to heal my burned heart…I knew it from the start i’m gonna get hurt…now there’s no cure for me. I’m addicted to fire…attracted by flames…ready to get burned again.