The trip to Alexandria had been Kendra’s idea. Will never initiated anything. He hated travelling. New situations pushed him out of his comfort zone. But Kendra thought, later she decided wrongly, that going to Egypt, such an exotic place, would show him there really was nothing to be frightened of. She hoped it would add some excitement to their waning relationship. But it hadn’t. Will hated every single thing about the trip. He hated the flight. He couldn’t stand the heat. He thought every person passing him wanted to steal his wallet. He was not interested in seeing any of the sights. He refused to drink the water, was even wary of bathing in it. He even hated the sea. They spent almost the entire two weeks in an air conditioned hotel room watching reruns of American sit-coms. They came home angry and further away from each other than ever.
After that trip to Alexandria she swore she’d never come to Egypt again. She blamed Egypt for their problems, but the problems were caused by Will, intransient Will. She should have kicked him out after that trip. She wished now she would have. Always better to be the kicker than the kicked. But she hadn’t. She kept thinking about how much time she’d already put into the relationship. She realised now that was the wrong way to think about it. Realised too late.
“With your… boyfriend?” Asra finished the sentence she hadn’t.
Kendra hesitated. She had promised Bianca not to talk about it but here was Asra, handsome sexy Asra asking her about it. What could she do? “Not anymore. We broke up, three weeks ago… after seven years.”
And that was all she needed. Then it all came pouring out like a damn wall broke. She knew it was the worst thing she could do, but she had no willpower to stop it. She sort of separated from her body, she could see herself from above looking down on the entire train wreck of a conversation. Blabbing on about Will this and Will that. She could see Asra feigning interest. Were his beautiful eyes glazing over? She looked down at herself and wished she could reach in and throttle her. “Shut up!” herself on high wanted to shout. “You’re ruining everything you stupid cow!”
The date she realised had only been a loose lid floating on top of the filled-to-the-top bottle of her emotions. A little knock and everything poured out. Messily. And the alcohol didn’t help. Afterwards Kendra wondered where on a list of the worst possible things a woman can do on a first date does “crying over the ex-boyfriend” rank? She suspected top three, at least. Likely number one.
To his credit Asra listened. He listened and listened and he didn’t even get that blank look Will used to get when she spoke about the ballet or her job. Asra listened to her go on and on about her broken heart and Will and the horrible break-up, and he seemed genuinely interested.
It was time to go. The show was over and the food was finished and Kendra was almost sober. She was sure she’d never see Asra again. Even if she ever came to Egypt again, which was unlikely, what would he want with this crazy British woman who arrived drunk, fell asleep, and then spent their entire date blabbing on about her ex-boyfriend? She was the worst date in history. The absolute worst.
He pulled up at her hotel and came around her side of the car and opened the door. Still the gentleman, despite everything. Such a lovely man. She felt like crying for the opportunity she missed. Asra was beautiful in every way and she had ruined the date completely.
“Thanks,” she said taking his hand.
They stood for a moment, a block of awkward silence between them. Asra spoke. “Kendra I had a lovely time…”
“No,’ she said holding up her hand to stop him, “Please. There’s no need to be polite. You don’t need to lie. I was awful. It was my first date post-Will and apparently I drank a bit too much beforehand because of nerves. I did fall asleep, I lied about that. And then I bored you to death about my ex. I ruined it, I’m sorry. You don’t have to lie and be nice. I’m tougher than I look. But listen, Asra, you’re lovely. Really. So polite and … well beautiful really. Just beautiful. I’m sure you’ll find the perfect woman one day. Someone very much not like me.”
Asra smiled. He took her hands in his and looked her in the eyes. “I never lie, Kendra. I had a lovely time. I mean it. We were both nervous. Like I said, I don’t date much. I did enjoy myself tonight, I really did. You’re a beautiful, interesting, funny and very honest woman. I could tell how you spoke about your ex-lover that you’re also a giving and passionate woman. These are wonderful things. We both leave tomorrow, maybe we won’t see each other again, only fate knows that answer, but I know happiness waits for you.”
Kendra couldn’t believe his kindness. Before she had a chance to think or change her mind she kissed him, quickly, a chaste peck on his perfect lips, then she turned to go.
But he held her hands and pulled her back. He took her face in his strong hands. For a moment he just looked her in eyes, as if he were searching for something there, and then he kissed her. First gently like feathers brushing against her lips and then with an unbridled passion that ticked long un-ticked boxes in Kendra’s body. Everything stopped and that kiss became the centre of the universe, for seconds, for hours, Kendra had no idea a kiss could do that.
He let her go and walked to his car then stopped and turned back. “Kendra Miller, until we meet again.”