Wed | Sep 28, 2016

Fireworks at the new year

Published:Sunday | January 3, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Kristine Atterbury, Contributor


Atterbury

Life is a funny thing. If someone had told me that I would be spending the majority of Neil's New Year's Eve party locked inside his parents' immaculate master bathroom, crying my eyes out, I would have laughed at them. It was getting close to midnight and I could hear the party in full swing through the bathroom door. I wiped my eyes with a wad of tissue and looked around me. The room was long and narrow, at the end of which sat a grand Victorian-style tub. The cream-coloured cabinets sported glass knobs and vintage-looking fixtures in muted silver tones. I stood in front of the his-and-hers sinks and gazed at my reflection in the mirror.

Patient wolf

The thing is, I never cry, especially over a man. When my mother was alive, she used to tell me that a nice guy was nothing but a patient wolf. "Don't put your trust in any of them," she would say, while meticulously applying blood-red lipstick. She sat at her vanity table every evening, getting ready to go out with one of her many boyfriends. Sometimes, if she was in a good mood, and if I agreed to be very quiet, she would let me sit and watch her twist her long hair into a chignon, and smooth créme blush onto her cheeks, and spray Channel No 5 onto her slender wrists.

After she was finished, she would light a cigarette and regard me from under heavily shadowed eyelids. She would brush at my shorts, dirty from playing outside all day, and shake her head with disapproval. "One day you'll be beautiful, Jasmine," she said. "And then you'll be able to do anything you want."

If she saw me now, I can just imagine how her lips would curl in disdain. Crying in the bathroom over some boy. And that's exactly what Neil was, just some boy I had met at a lyme at my friend Keisha's house. I remember standing by the front gate in my white mini-dress and black peep-toe heels. The shoes were killing my feet but every man's eyes were on me, even Keisha's boyfriend. That's how easy men are - unable to resist a short skirt and high heels and hair that flows past the shoulders. I was giddy with power that night, completely aware of my own importance, until I met Neil.

He showed up with a group of guys, all of whom were nudging each other and winking in my direction, their tongues practically on the floor, the dogs. But he was different. He walked into the yard like he owned the place, a kind of arrogant set to his shoulders. His eyes met mine only for an instant before his gaze moved elsewhere, a look of complete boredom on his face.

dumped

"Who's that guy?" I asked Keisha. She glanced in his direction quickly and shook her head at me. "Leave that one alone, Jasmine, trust me. He's the one that dumped Anna-Shae Peters last year. All now she still bawling 'bout him."

I glared at her, but said nothing. I was no Anna-Shae Peters. I sipped my drink and watched him sit down to play dominoes. He was slightly taller than average height and he looked like he worked out every now and then - there was a nice, even muscle tone to his arms and shoulders through the white T-shirt he was wearing. His moustache was lined up perfectly, with just a hint of stubble peppering his jaw. I watched him over the next hour and not once did he look at me, not even when I joined my friends on the lawn and began dancing. I've learned that if you touch your body in a certain way, and bite your lip every now and then, and lift your hair from your neck while moving your hips, you can have every man in the room at your feet. But it didn't work with Neil.

pissed

By the time the party was over, my feet were aching and I was pissed off. I shot down some poor loser in an ugly green shirt, who had the nerve to try to grab my hand, and stomped to my car. While I was opening the car door and cussing under my breath, I noticed Neil striding through the gate. He was alone. His gaze met mine and he smiled amiably, displaying gorgeous white teeth and my stomach dipped.

"Jasmine, right?" he asked. And then it was all over.

He took my number and I waited in agony for nearly a week before hearing from him. It took 11 days for him to kiss me, three weeks before he would do anything more. He constantly left me wanting more, always hanging up just as the conversation was getting interesting, always leaving just as I was about to explode from sheer anticipation. When he did kiss me, it was like being on a roller coaster, painstakingly slow and halting at first, then suddenly rough and exhilarating. Sometimes he would look at me tenderly and run his fingertips along my jawline, at other moments I would have to wonder if he had forgotten I was there. When we finally made love, I had to bite my tongue to keep from shouting that I loved him more than anything in the world, that I wanted to be with him forever. I knew better than that. My mother used to say that the fastest way to lose a man was to tell him you loved him. So I kept my feelings to myself and smiled prettily at him instead of talking too much, like most girls do. He had no idea that I was completely at his mercy.

There was a soft tap at the door. "It's me," a voice said. I wiped my face and opened the door. Neil slipped through and closed the door, leaning against it. We looked at each other for a moment and then he sighed. "You told me you wasn't coming tonight."

"So this is what you doing when I'm not around?" I hissed. "Grinding all over random women on the dance floor where everyone can see?" I hated how out-of-control and upset I was. And I hated him even more for reducing me to such a blubbering mess.

He shrugged. "I didn't think you would care."

"I don't."

He reached for me suddenly, his arms grasping my wrists, pulling me in to him and I could tell he thought this was going to be one of those times where he could swallow my protests with the sheer force of his mouth. I saw that look in his eyes, almost smug in its certainty, and bitterness rose up in my throat. Before I could stop myself I had slapped him across the face as hard as I could. It happened almost in slow motion, that slap, the world seeming almost to pause, as my hand knocked his head to the side.

humiliated

A myriad of emotions lit across his face, first shock, then anger, and then restraint, as his hand flew up in a knee-jerk response but faltered inches from my cheek, eventually falling to his side, and then there was only silence. Only quiet in that immaculate white bathroom, as we looked at each other, and I held my breath, wondering what he would do next. He would dump me surely.

I was no better than Anna-Shae Peters, was I?

Through the door, I could hear them counting down to midnight. Neil was rubbing his cheek slowly, his face as still as stone. My humiliation complete, I picked up my bag and shoes, and opened the door.

"Hol' on."

I turned towards him, staring at the floor, grateful for the locks of hair that fell over my face and hid my ruined make-up.

He seemed to be struggling with himself. "Jasmine, you barely talk to me," he said. "How I was supposed to know you were so serious about us?"

I didn't have an answer for that so I kept staring at the floor.

Bubble of joy

"Jasmine, I don't bizniz wid that girl. I cyan figure you out, I thought you were just having fun with me."

"Maybe I am," I said, trying to sound nonchalant, but failing pathetically.

"Maybe you are," he agreed. He paused. "Or maybe you want to be boyfriend and girlfriend."

I rolled my eyes at how corny it sounded.

"Is that what you want?" he asked.

I shrugged.

He chuckled softly, still rubbing his face. His hand reached out to touch mine.

"Are you asking me to be your girlfriend?" I asked, trying to ignore the bubble of joy that was spreading from my heart all the way up to my throat.

Instead of answering, he kissed me, and it was a different kiss from any other we had shared.

"Wait, wait," I gasped, pushing him away. "You have that girl's perfume all over you."

He gave me a speculative look and then nodded towards the shower. "Let's wash it off then."

And so we did, standing underneath the pounding spray, kissing until my lips were numb, running our hands over each other, and when he dipped his head to whisper into my ear, all I could think about was how wrong my mother had been.

disdain. Crying in the bathroom over some boy. And that's exactly what Neil was, just some boy I had met at a lyme at my friend Keisha's house. I remember standing by the front gate in my white mini-dress and black peep-toe heels. The shoes were killing my feet but every man's eyes were on me, even Keisha's boyfriend. That's how easy men are - unable to resist a short skirt and high heels and hair that flows past the shoulders. I was giddy with power that night, completely aware of my own importance, until I met Neil.

He showed up with a group of guys, all of whom were nudging each other and winking in my direction, their tongues practically on the floor, the dogs. But he was different. He walked into the yard like he owned the place, a kind of arrogant set to his shoulders. His eyes met mine only for an instant before his gaze moved elsewhere, a look of complete boredom on his face.

dumped

"Who's that guy?" I asked Keisha. She glanced in his direction quickly and shook her head at me. "Leave that one alone, Jasmine, trust me. He's the one that dumped Anna-Shae Peters last year. All now she still bawling 'bout him."

I glared at her, but said nothing. I was no Anna-Shae Peters. I sipped my drink and watched him sit down to play dominoes. He was slightly taller than average height and he looked like he worked out every now and then - there was a nice, even muscle tone to his arms and shoulders through the white T-shirt he was wearing. His moustache was lined up perfectly, with just a hint of stubble peppering his jaw. I watched him over the next hour and not once did he look at me, not even when I joined my friends on the lawn and began dancing. I've learned that if you touch your body in a certain way, and bite your lip every now and then, and lift your hair from your neck while moving your hips, you can have every man in the room at your feet. But it didn't work with Neil.

pissed

By the time the party was over, my feet were aching and I was pissed off. I shot down some poor loser in an ugly green shirt, who had the nerve to try to grab my hand, and stomped to my car. While I was opening the car door and cussing under my breath, I noticed Neil striding through the gate. He was alone. His gaze met mine and he smiled amiably, displaying gorgeous white teeth and my stomach dipped.

"Jasmine, right?" he asked. And then it was all over.

He took my number and I waited in agony for nearly a week before hearing from him. It took 11 days for him to kiss me, three weeks before he would do anything more. He constantly left me wanting more, always hanging up just as the conversation was getting interesting, always leaving just as I was about to explode from sheer anticipation. When he did kiss me, it was like being on a roller coaster, painstakingly slow and halting at first, then suddenly rough and exhilarating. Sometimes he would look at me tenderly and run his fingertips along my jawline, at other moments I would have to wonder if he had forgotten I was there. When we finally made love, I had to bite my tongue to keep from shouting that I loved him more than anything in the world, that I wanted to be with him forever. I knew better than that. My mother used to say that the fastest way to lose a man was to tell him you loved him. So I kept my feelings to myself and smiled prettily at him instead of talking too much, like most girls do. He had no idea that I was completely at his mercy.

There was a soft tap at the door. "It's me," a voice said. I wiped my face and opened the door. Neil slipped through and closed the door, leaning against it. We looked at each other for a moment and then he sighed. "You told me you wasn't coming tonight."

"So this is what you doing when I'm not around?" I hissed. "Grinding all over random women on the dance floor where everyone can see?" I hated how out-of-control and upset I was. And I hated him even more for reducing me to such a blubbering mess.

He shrugged. "I didn't think you would care."

"I don't."

He reached for me suddenly, his arms grasping my wrists, pulling me in to him and I could tell he thought this was going to be one of those times where he could swallow my protests with the sheer force of his mouth. I saw that look in his eyes, almost smug in its certainty, and bitterness rose up in my throat. Before I could stop myself I had slapped him across the face as hard as I could. It happened almost in slow motion, that slap, the world seeming almost to pause, as my hand knocked his head to the side.

humiliated

A myriad of emotions lit across his face, first shock, then anger, and then restraint, as his hand flew up in a knee-jerk response but faltered inches from my cheek, eventually falling to his side, and then there was only silence. Only quiet in that immaculate white bathroom, as we looked at each other, and I held my breath, wondering what he would do next. He would dump me surely.

I was no better than Anna-Shae Peters, was I?

Through the door, I could hear them counting down to midnight. Neil was rubbing his cheek slowly, his face as still as stone. My humiliation complete, I picked up my bag and shoes, and opened the door.

"Hol' on."

I turned towards him, staring at the floor, grateful for the locks of hair that fell over my face and hid my ruined make-up.

He seemed to be struggling with himself. "Jasmine, you barely talk to me," he said. "How I was supposed to know you were so serious about us?"

I didn't have an answer for that so I kept staring at the floor.

Bubble of joy

"Jasmine, I don't bizniz wid that girl. I cyan figure you out, I thought you were just having fun with me."

"Maybe I am," I said, trying to sound nonchalant, but failing pathetically.

"Maybe you are," he agreed. He paused. "Or maybe you want to be boyfriend and girlfriend."

I rolled my eyes at how corny it sounded.

"Is that what you want?" he asked.

I shrugged.

He chuckled softly, still rubbing his face. His hand reached out to touch mine.

"Are you asking me to be your girlfriend?" I asked, trying to ignore the bubble of joy that was spreading from my heart all the way up to my throat.

Instead of answering, he kissed me, and it was a different kiss from any other we had shared.

"Wait, wait," I gasped, pushing him away. "You have that girl's perfume all over you."

He gave me a speculative look and then nodded towards the shower. "Let's wash it off then."

And so we did, standing underneath the pounding spray, kissing until my lips were numb, running our hands over each other, and when he dipped his head to whisper into my ear, all I could think about was how wrong my mother had been.