“If you could, would you?” He looked at her quizzically.
“Just askin’…” Her smile held the promise of a secret she may or may not share.
Intrigued, he decided to indulge her cryptic question. “Fly around the world in a day? No, too far! Climb a volcano, thats another no, too hot! Sit on an iceberg with a Polar Bear in the North Pole, Brrr much too cold!”
“None of those things Cooper, they are too um…mundane… That isn’t the nature of the question!”
“Join a camel train and cross the Arabian desert to sip rosewater at an oasis?” Is that fanciful enough?” He saw a flicker of light in her dark eyes, decided to close her down, this was getting too deep and the game was about to start. “No, not for me!”
“Why? It’s not too far, not too dangerous, not too cold, hmm unless maybe at night. You could keep warm sipping potent Arak, and with the heady scent of incense burning wrap your arms around your true love and make love to me by moonlight and starlight! “
Cooper looked taken aback and out of his depth. He didn’t want fancy Arabian Liquor when there was a case of Coors on ice. Forget heady incense, the only smoke he wanted was twenty Marlboro Lights. And as for the desert, well his true love the New York Giants were playing in Las Vegas and the clock was on countdown to kick off.
“Is it because it is too hot? Don’t you like it hot?” Was there just a hint of sarcasm in her voice? “Afraid you may get burnt?”
“The Arabian desert is a big place just to grab a drink, and what if the Oasis was no more than a mirage, I’d be left very thirsty, can you grab me a Coors the game is starting in like two minutes.”
Purposely not taking the pointed hint Stella pressed on, “What if it isn’t more than a mirage? Unless you make the journey, you will never know.”
Walking into the kitchen, she filled herself a large glass of chilled Californian Chardonnay, took a slow sip and then another…The wine cooling her rising ire. It was all about him, it was always all about him. Saturday night, and all dressed up with no where to go, except another one way ticket to boredom city. She downed the wine, filled another glass, grabbed Cooper a beer and determined not to loose his attention stood in front of the T.V set.
“…In answer to my question ‘ If you could, would you?’ instead of sitting there watching life, what if you tried actually living life then what exciting, wonderful and amazing thing would you do?” Her voice had a sharp edge, the wine kicking in, unable to bite back the bitterness she felt.
He looked at her at a loss how to reply. Should he tell her if he could, he would shut her up, make her go away and let him watch the Giants in peace? Something in him knew he couldn’t give her what she wanted, never could, never would. She was different from all the women who had loved him and left him, a free spirit he had managed to trap and he was not about to let go, so he indulged her little flights of fancy, even though they bored him, then made sure the bars of the prison he constructed around her grew stronger and stronger, and her world grew smaller and smaller.
Seeing and mis-reading the panic in his eyes, she clasped his hands, trying to pull him up toward her. He remained seated, resolutely focussed on the TV screen behind her.
“Cooper! If you could, would you please put me first? If you could, would you please notice me?” And if you can’t would you please set me free to be with someone who would actually appreciate me?!”
“Stella, you mean everything to me, all I do, baby, you know I do it for you. Been a long week at work. The stock exchange is brutal, give a guy a break…Make it up to you. Can we set the world on fire tomorrow, You go to Nieman Marcus and get a fancy new gown and I’ll take you out to that new Fifth Avenue restaurant all the celebrities go to. The first game of the NFL season is about to start, so for tonight how ’bout you fix us a bowl of chips and join me on the couch.”
The weight of too many broken promises hung heavy in the air between them. Stella knew whatever Cooper did was all for him, none of it was for her. She also knew he was the one truly trapped, for in her mind she could always fly free…
With a sad smile she said, “I’m tired too Cooper, do you mind if I leave you to watch T.V you know ball games are not my thing?”
He nodded, relieved, “Sure thing baby, can you just grab those chips before you go?”
Stella walked back into the kitchen. Looking out over the glistening lights of the New York skyline she felt trapped in her Manhattan penthouse. Some where over the East River the stars were shining, but with all the light pollution she couldn’t see them. Stella downed the rest of her wine, wiped away the threat of hot tears and did as Cooper bid, as she always did. The Emperor called and the nightingale sang…
“Don’t get up to any mischief in your dreams, Stella!” A dismissive peck on the lips made sure she didn’t linger.
He knew where she was, safely tucked up in his bed. Once she was asleep he’d trawl through her emails and cell phone, just to make sure no hidden threat was lurking. He’d never managed to find anything incriminating, but that didn’t stop him looking. Couldn’t be doing with any one coming in and filling her head with nonsense. There was a way to handle sensitive types like his Stella, just pretend to go along with it all and then let her know she had hit a brick wall. He knew she’d tire soon enough and go off to sleep leaving him in peace. Dismissing her from his mind, comfortable in his T shirt and shorts he chugged his beer, lit a Marlboro and settled back to watch the Giants kick ass.
♥ ♥ ♥
Her pillows were plush filled with Canadian goose down, the sheets cool Egyptian cotton. Stella slipped off her blue velvet dress and eased into the king sized bed. She could have cried but her tears had dried up a long time ago.
As she drifted of to sleep, the reflection of Manhattan’s myriad of lights reflecting on the East River became a starlit sea. And in a tiny sailing boat Stella’s nocturnal journey took her away from her Penthouse cage to freedom. She travelled by moonlight and starlight to a distant shore where he was waiting, in a place where love lived forevermore. The man of her dreams. Together they lived, they laughed, they loved.
And when she asked him “If you could, would you…?” He answered “If I could, I would love you for eternity Stella!
“Would you?” She whispered.
“Stella, I would stop time for you and hold you in my arms forever!”
And sweeping her up, her lover carried Stella further into the land of dreams.
She smiled in her sleep, knowing she wasn’t doing anything wrong…
After all, you are innocent when you dream…
© Eily Nash 2018