Love's Strange Arbour (18+)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

Andy, a young and ambitious yet lost and purposeless man, falls in love and, through the power of love, undergoes a personal transformation resulting in his ascension to living a driven, guided, and selfless life.

As Andy walked down Marlowe Terrace, Wollongong, the sun shining its warm rays down upon his face, he was filled with joy, as he knew in his heart that he found love. As a 23-year old student aspiring toward journalism he had as yet not managed to form any deep and lasting relationships, and had consistently felt lonely in his life – up until now, that is, for it seemed to him that he had at last come to meet one who found his companionship desirable and pleasant – Athena. Knowing that that is the name of the Greek goddess of wisdom, Minerva in Rome, he was careful not to stereotype people according to what qualities he believed their name, nationality, skin colour, sex, or any other general qualities represent. At the same time, it was impossible for him to know, on his first encounter with someone, even a tenth of the secrets and mysteries of the impossible depths of their heart; nevertheless, he had faith that, as he built relationships with others, he would know such people more, and they him.

So, he met this Athena, or rather, she met him. For as he was playing chess in relief from his studies whilst listening to Bein’ Friends it so happened that a dark-haired lady sat at the desk next to him – a fairly rare event and, for him, a nerve-wracking one at that, as he had the tendency to become very nervous whenever he  found himself around women, thinking that he needed to start putting on a show of being a god-like being, an ubermensch, as who he really was was simply never good enough, nor impressive enough for any woman he met. This is because he considered himself weird – a strange and abnormal male, a creep – and always felt himself being scorned, shunned, and ignored whilst having to witness the attention he longed for given to those greater than himself.

And so, as Athena sat down next to Andy and began to, as he supposed, study with her laptop, he continued to focus on the matters at hand. However, despite his attention to the chess game, he felt her presence advance to his side – and, upon removing his headphones, hearing her asking about logging onto the universities’ internet with his credentials. Andy hesitated. How could he do this, allow this complete and utter stranger to access something as intimate as his login details – to put his own academic life in danger for something as trivial as a girl who seemed to give him the slightest bit of attention?! Andy struggled and gaped in his stomach. What was he to do? After some persuasion, including sharing with him both her Facebook account and a strange savoury-sweet biscuit, he conceded – though would not be eating another of said biscuit any time soon.

They then began to chat, wherein they learned a number of things about each other. They shared where they were living, what they were studying, and a few extra words, though, as yet, nought about their interests or whether they shared any. After a short time of conversation, he told her he was now about to meet a friend to lunch, and thus left her.

Later that night, whilst drinking a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, Andy sent Athena a message on Facebook and they began talking. It was now that he learned a little more about her, and yet there is only so much you can gather about another when not talking in person: nevertheless, he felt a connection with her and felt his affection grow toward her. They then played a game of chess in which he mated her in nine moves, followed by talking some more. Finally, they agreed to meet at a café on Hampshire Street.

Andy was grateful to meet her on Saturday, as the day was warm and the sun high in his place, the breeze blowing its benevolent kisses and the spirit of the air promoting peace among the dwellers and craftsmen of the town. They came together at Madmoiselle’s, a French café adjoining a 1950’s-style bookshop and an Indian restaurant. Meeting her he was short of words to say, but found his voice eventually – for his heart thumped rapidly with the hope of stoking her love. He sat at a corner table with her, picked up the menus, and chatted eagerly whilst discussing the options.

Andy had always been a picky eater, part of his enduring lack of courage and adventurousness, an absence of resilience and a virtual incapacity to withstand prolonged and genuine pain. This extended as far as to his sense of sexuality and to his relationships both with women and men – He felt unable to truly express himself, not only repressing his sexuality, but also his feelings and emotions.

He was vulnerable. Outside he portrayed himself as a regular guy, but this façade did not convince others for long – for as soon as they began to speak with him, they noticed that something about him was very different and rather odd. He was a freak, a clown, and dangerously self-destructive owing to his hideously negative self-image. Andy felt like a small boy, fearful and lost, knowing not where to go and what to do, ever attempting and failing to understand what his true purpose in life really was – studying without aim, so it seemed. He had now and again entertained several ‘paths’ he could take with his life – musician, writer, programmer, teacher – and yet all the while it seemed to him that none of these paths are what he felt as though he was being ‘led’ towards. Andy was lost, so many around him were lost, and a sense of peace and purpose seemed impossible both to him and to countless others. Suicide was regularly entertained on his mind, and he frequently told himself that he would do it – now, tomorrow, or in the following year. He couldn’t see a clear path of life for himself – life seemed truly unnavigable. Though he could achieve some pleasure from the gratifications of the flesh as describes food, music, wine, and sex, there seemed to be no hope for fulfillment beyond these things, ultimately shallow things as they were.

And he always worried. Anxiety was the base state of his mind. Whether it was worrying about not having a job and a satisfying, decently-paying career either now or in the future, worrying about not waking up on time in his mornings, worrying about never entering into a romantic relationship with someone he loved, or worrying about death and the entry into the afterlife, worry is what he consistently returned to; it was a plague of his mind, an illness. He tried desperately, and in vain, to escape from and eliminate it, and yet it was utterly inescapable. And this anxiety – this fear – fear of what he did not understand – had to be conquered – his ego had to be absorbed into the One and All.

And so, to return to the event: Andy and Athena sat down together, and got to discussing their lives. She told him that she felt insecure about herself, to which he responded in the affirmative, agreeing; she had taken a path in accounting, believing it to be a decent and trustworthy career choice, and yet was worried about not using her life to its utmost capacity and ultimately never engaging her creative capacities. At this his heart swelled, for he had felt the same way for a long time – he felt he would rather be a poor writer than a rich lawyer, and not only that, but also to pour himself into painting and musical composition – to empty his life in order that it might be transformed into a source of hope and truth in the world, and cause beauty and light to proceed forth from it.

And as she talked, Andy discovered that it was her ambition to design houses – she wished to increase others’ enjoyment of their lives by increasing the beauty of their surroundings. By the twinkle in her eyes he could see that this was what she desired above all things, where her heart was, and what she had fallen in love with – what she wanted to represent herself in. Inspired by the passion coming forth from her lips at the love-inspired words of her delight, Andy felt a tear come, then another, and another, and very soon his face was running with tears, and those running down from his eyes, like creeks which had their banks overswelled. He couldn’t restrain himself but blurted out that he felt just the same way as her, not so much in architecture as in literature, and gently clasped her hand as he shared with her that she could achieve such dreams if she directed her thoughts to believing that she could and had the resources and willpower within herself to do so, and if her heart was put to it. All the saints and angels now held witness before her that she had now to make a crucially difficult choice: would she spend her life as a comfortable slave, reaping the rewards of mammon and never having to put herself in a place of vulnerability for all the world to scrutinise; or, would she do just the latter, and risk the loss of selfish comfortability, exposing her ego to all the insults, threats, and ridicule the world has to offer?

Then followed the arrival of their food. Their eyes lit up immediately at the sight of their respective meals: eggs benedict for Andy, pancakes with syrup for Athena, and chips and pinot noir for both. Then, as they began to eat, they continued to discuss their lives and their respective interests; he discovered that she delighted in hiking, which both intrigued and caused his mind to begin to plan a possible excursion to wheresoever it may be; and she found that he loved music, both classical and jazz, in addition to some rock and electronic, which allowed her to feel an additional sense of connection, as she too loved classical and jazz, with the works of Miles Davis being favoured by her in particular – such a mention being highly opportune, as it gave further opportunities for their talk to grow, develop, and progress.

At this point, Andy’s mind was weighing up the advantages of asking her if she had a boyfriend – While on the one he knew that, if he did, she would quickly grasp that he was asking with romantic, or sexual, intent, he also knew that if she rejected him he would feel it very sensitively, and be crushed for weeks. On the other hand, he felt that if he did not enquire, he would truly regret it. After a minute of deliberation, he finally decided on the former option and gave her the question.

Her response was in the negative – and if his judgment was correct, he thought she may have given his eyes such a look as to indicate that she was looking for someone and that someone was him!

Now it came to pass that, as they had both finished and enjoyed their meal, and had felt a sense of connection over the course of their conversation, they could each sense a twinkle in the other’s eye, a sparkle of love and trust. Being lifted by the knowledge that someone felt delighted to have him around them, Andy was then made eager to have her companionship in his life, and so asked if she would like to walk with him, her reply being quick and affirmative. His joy was thus increased, as he could then enjoy Nature with her, with someone, and also be granted more opportunity to gaze on her beauty, that being both in her body and more particularly in her face, which was truly sweeter than honey to look upon. Having agreed, they then decided to meet at the base of the fairly close Mount Macquarie the following Saturday.

Mount Macquarie was a tall hill that had towered over Wollongong’s west side for years. It had a ragged, rocky top surrounded by untold varieties of gum trees that bended toward sunlight like slaves towards their captor over the scorching, torpid Australian summers. Every year, legions of people seeking to interrupt the drag of their daily routines would travel out to embark on the toilsome slog up it, creating pain so that they may receive pleasure by the cessation thereof, both in the repose of their bodies and in the spectacular view provided them by Nature and its God.

At 8 in the morning Athena and Andy met under a dense oven-like blanket of heat, and yet one that only hinted at how it would develop as the day would grow. Having briefly enjoyed coffee and scones in the nearby café, they then set off.

Sweating away, they set to talking. Andy now came to hear how that, her parents having abandoned her as an infant in the Chinese city of Xi’an, she was raised at a Catholic orphanage and never knew her parents’ real names. She told him how she couldn’t know if they were financially incapable of raising her themselves, or if – they didn’t even want to – but how, fortunately, the carers at the orphanage were kind and spent much of their time helping her to feel that she belonged, and was loved. Andy couldn’t relate to not having grown up without parents, but nevertheless could see the weakness, even the feeling of worthlessness, in her tearful eyes, and so could see the damage being rejected by one’s own family can cause, and how important it was to find a place in the world one felt one belonged. And so they halted at a pass overlooking a waterfall, and embraced both each other and the awesome view.

Continuing, Andy then shared some of his story with her. He told of how, despite having the experience of a family, he never felt he belonged to any group or community, and so had always felt estranged and isolated even when in the midst of others – as though he felt he was of a different species to the generality of mankind altogether – and how this had caused prolonged pain within him, driving him to desperate attempts to impress those he considered ‘cool’, ever longing to be liked and accepted, and yet only achieving alienation. That is why the realisation that he was liked by a girl meant a great deal to him, and procured within him an abiding and tangible sense of peace.

It thus came to pass that, as their engrossing discussion twisted and turned, they hardly realised they were approaching the summit until they passed the last turn and, almost crawling, saw the plateau arise before their eyes. It was hard to tell whether it was the sight of the sprawling city, with its picturesque buildings and roads, or their strenuous hike, that left them breathless. Whichever it was, Andy felt his heart within him witness the beauty that was before his eyes, and knew again that philosophy can never truly alter, twist, or deny the truth, but can only clarify and affirm it.

After some time laying on the grass and becoming refreshed, enjoying the scenery of the hills and the endless ocean far before them, they were thus set to return to Mount Macquarie’s foot. However, before they rose, Andy had an idea. He knew he liked her (for so he felt a rush of energy towards both his heart and stomach whenever he looked at her); he wanted to stay with her and continue to take in life with her; and so, after debating his thoughts for what seemed like an eternity, asked if she would like to have dinner at his house tonight. Thrilled, she said yes, whereupon he also was elated. They then walked down the steep hill, while he was internally planning out a great time for both of them; and he became so wrapped up, enmeshed, and consumed within the dark, chaotic forest of his own thoughts that he didn’t see the roots that lined the footpath of the forest they walked through and so was caught in them and thrown down like a beaten wrestler. Laughing with her, he stood up and they went on, gave each other a farewell at their cars, and drove away.

Later that night, it came to pass that, while Andy lit lamps, played Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata and created a subdued mood, Athena pulled up in her ’07 Toyota Yaris and stepped onto his front porch. Being still so lost in his mind’s incessant planning, the ringing of the doorbell gave him an electrifying shock, causing his heart to nearly break out of his chest in nervous anticipation. He opened the door to see Athena in a gorgeous blue dress, perfectly accentuating her bubbly, smooth limbs and plump, diminutive figure; and yet most captivating of all were her bright blue eyes which, despite being couched behind a thick pair of glasses, possessed an intoxicating, almost divine, aura of beauty. Bringing her in, Andy closed the door behind them and they sat on an old, juice-stained leathern sofa whilst initiating conversation that quickly directed itself in all sorts of directions, twists and turns. Despite finding simply talking with her so incredibly delightful, fascinating and satisfying – Andy felt more comforted being next to her than with anyone he had ever known, and could see she felt the same about him – he felt pressured to think about their dinner. Now, was he really planning to cook for both of them? While he was a semi-competent cook, his fare had always been fairly basic – reflecting both his palate and creative potency – and was nothing compared to a restaurant’s fine provision. With that in mind, they proceeded to order a tantalising set of Mexican dishes from an online outlet.

Now, as Athena opened a bottle of Pinot Noir they began to talk of music, whereupon she revealed to him that she loved Miles Davis, with his rendition of Richard Rodgers’ My Funny Valentine esteemed highest in her mind. What else could Andy do other than play the album – Cookin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet? So, after relaxing, talking and drinking with each other for a while with Red Garland’s soothing piano chords and the occasional piercing cries of Davis’ muted trumpet in their ears, they were well-nigh in over their heads with wine and each other as, when the doorbell rang, Andy had to lift her off his chest in order to receive the cheerful Persian delivery guy’s meal. Sitting down to eat, he ate a mouth-wateringly delicious bowl of salsa that, though great in itself, would compare nought with what he was to savour the taste of shortly after.

From this point, the next few hours seemed to pass him by in ecstasy. They danced, drank, played games and finally, as passions were running high, sat on the sofa, looked into each other’s eyes, and brought their lips together. The feeling of smooching and caressing another’s lips with his own was very strange and quite unlike anything Andy had ever experienced before, and yet was somehow supremely satisfying and captivating – he felt he could continue to kiss her not merely for the next few seconds, nor minutes, but for an eternity. Throughout this time, he felt vibrant energy course throughout his entire body and made him feel stronger and more alive. And so it occurred that he painstakingly severed his lips from hers, took up and carried her into his room, that being illumined with blue lighting (he felt he was improvising the whole time acting upon ideas that had sunk deep into his subconscious from popular culture), placed her on his bed, and pulled off her dress to reveal her sumptuous breasts and thighs. Andy then slid on top of her whilst removing his shirt, kissing and adoring the entirety of her beautiful being: her lips, cheeks, neck, breasts, belly, and legs. She then reciprocated in fondling his biceps and torso, pressing her chest on his own and kissing him.

Now, by this time Andy’s cock had grown so large and hard that it was visibly bulging within his chinos. The ancient reptile of primordial lust had become so great within him to the point that there was but one thing left in his mind, and one thing only. Taking his trousers off, the exposed penis flopped out before her; she took it into her mouth and began to suck. The feeling was intensely strange, like nothing he had ever known before; he felt extremely vulnerable and exposed. The feeling of her lips and mouth sliding up and down it was at once both pleasurable and somehow painful, Andy being so sensitive. Following this, he would now bend over her, slide her blue panties down her thick, luscious thighs and proceed to lick her hairless vagina – her fruit was sweet to his taste, sweet indeed, but also rather unlike any taste he was familiar with. After sucking her for some time, they were both sufficiently titillated as to allow for his entry into her, which he did after not a little difficulty in locating the spot he was to enter in. But as he did, the night became a few degrees more special, and he the more enfixed and entranced upon her, locked together in total embrace as his hips rose and fell steadily in imitation of the endless rhythm of Nature, and entering both into a heightened state of exhilaration. Together they reached their climax and came in an almost exact unison, resulting in a warm, sticky substance filling her insides and dripping from him. Then he shifted to her side, thanking and embracing each other, and with her fell quickly to sleep.

Since that intimate night Andy continued to love and live with Athena for the rest of his earthly existence and, with her, began to enjoy a breathtaking new life that seemed to burgeon with possibilities, with new pathways and opportunities opening up for him all the time. Opportunities he previously never noticed began to present themselves generously for his own perusal, and he bore about a sense that he was welcome and invited to share in the goodness and beauty of life with those that have been enlightened – those who are passionate and liberated, know their purpose, and are guided along their way by the Spirit that illuminates all. As a result, he had ascended from once being an aimless fast food worker with little potential and less awareness of his own strengths to editing for a newspaper, writing stories and essays on countless subjects ranging from economics and biological science to religion and psychology, mentoring students in English and history, hosting talks on life, philosophy, self-help, work, and money, composing and playing music, painting art, and being a father to two small children, Arthur and Anna, who were both driven by a sense of their innate worth and potential whilst being encouraged and loved by their parents. Athena studied architecture and left accounting to fulfil her dream, finding opportunities to work on stunning architectural projects in great cities from New York to Seoul. Moreover, Andy had articles featured in many leading newspapers from The Times to The Guardian, had spoken at TED conferences, and met many, especially in his own city, who came to him to share how his work had touched their lives and motivated them to change. But he considered, as of more value than all else, his wife and children, whose lives he loved and counted more precious than anything else in the world.

Submitted: September 27, 2021

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