Victoria wasn’t really looking out of the window when she saw the naked man in her back garden, she was looking at a reflection of it on the mirror she was using to apply mascara. Her eyes were focused on the tiny brush stroking languidly over her eyelashes and so she only got a quick flash of a well-built shape, just beyond the conifer at the bottom of her garden. He was watching her.
Of course, by the time she had turned away from the mirror to look directly into the garden, he was gone.
You’re hallucinating again, she told herself firmly and turned back to the mirror. With the unhurried strokes of a patient woman, she continued to darken her eyelashes.
Wishful thinking, Victoria. Get a grip.
Still, she wasn’t sure. Wishful thinking was one thing, but an actual naked man was a whole other kettle of boiling water. She let her mind run over the memory of his body. His outline had been pure Greek God, naturally. She wouldn’t want any other vision in her mind. And his skin had seemed to glow, whether with health or with the sun she wasn’t sure. Certainly it had been sunny enough lately for him to have picked up a tan if he’d been sunbathing, sprawled out on the patch of lush grass at the bottom of her garden, legs slightly akimbo, one hand shading his eyes and the other flung out carelessly towards the house as if in invita …
Victoria pulled the mascara brush away from her face and shook her head to clear the vision. Cool yourself, honeychile, she chided herself; it’s hot enough in this room without raising any more heat.
She stood and let her gaze sweep around. Four solid walls with a built in wardrobe, dressing table and bed. And then the other dimension: a panel window that looked out over the garden. Radiant flower-beds and lush greenery: life captured and suffused with dappled sunshine that played tag with the riotous colours of summer. A mad rush of paint on a genius’ canvas. A feast of sensory perfection. A pair of liquid brown eyes gazing at her from between the azaleas. Victoria swept her mascaraed eyelashes down. Nope, not going to go there.
She’d been having a little therapy. It was one of the conditions.
The counsellor, with his twinkling eyes and smooth voice had told her to move away from her self-imposed limitations; to let her mind sweep over possibilities; and to learn to trust in in her latent goodness. He was chock full of stuff like that. But still, she liked him enough to listen to the drone of his voice. She didn’t tell him everything. How could she? But she told him enough for him to smile benignly, nod and make little jottings in his notepad. Mostly harmless, she thought. Mostly.
Still, he’d given her clues. He’d directed her where to look in her childhood for the seeds of … whatever it was that now swirled around her mind like an invisible vine. She was aware that she still had the curiosity of a child inside the layers of skin that had somehow draped themselves over her delicate bones, pinning her down to earth; no more to fly. She kept her curiosity hidden now; inside a sealed casket within a locked box beneath the floorboards of a secret room.
But, like any child, she always wanted to know. What’s in there; who lives inside; where does he come from, what does he do; why that shape; how does it feel; and when, when, when will it be my turn? As a toddler she’d caught glimpses of her parents behind doors left carelessly open and the things she’d seen, but never understood were, back then, like strands of spider’s web tickling inside her forehead, but now they howled like haunted wolves in the spaces between her ears as she sat and nodded and smiled silently at the counsellor over tea and sweet biscuits.
The biscuits were nice, even if they were always gone too quickly.
Heck; is that the time already? Victoria slammed the shaft of the mascara brush into the little tube, screwed it shut and tossed it into her makeup bag. On with the show. Pausing only to grab her dressing-gown, wrap it around herself and belt it tightly, she headed for the door. Almost forgetting, she half-raised her hand to slap it against the closed door; ready to signal to the nurse in the corridor to open up, then remembering, she let her hand drop to the door knob. No more of that. Not now. Not ever if I can help myself. She gripped it and twisted. Pulled the door towards her. Opened it wider to let the light flood through. Slipped through the gap and stood on the threshold for a moment, taking in the scent of freedom, the sensation of being without bounds, the delicious experience of living a life without locks. Then she headed towards her kitchen, and breakfast.