Stop before I fall to pieces

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
An anonymous invite to a new and beautiful City is a great opportunity for Matilda. But she's shadowed by a man and her World may just come crashing down.

Entry for Dip's Romantic City Challenge.

Submitted: December 28, 2010

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Submitted: December 28, 2010

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Matilda stood her eyes wide, so this is it she thought looking around. The infamous Las Ramblas.... the cobbled street was crammed full of life. She walked along the slight incline, her eyes overloaded with the coloured scarves, hats and clothes that were draped over the stalls, lining either side of the raised path that snaked between two lanes of very busy traffic. Wow the drivers here were wild, she was so glad she was on foot.
 
The bright clothes gave way to newspaper kiosks and souvenir stands. Stopping she purchased a key ring with ‘I heart Barcelona’ emblazoned on it and pocketed it with a smile. Turning to continue her climb along the gradual hill, her eyes were still wide with wonder.
 
Next she passed a variety of restaurants all with tables spilling out into the walkway. People chatted, and watched the World go by. She smiled genially at the tourist faces all smiling up at her, then on a whim she slid into a seat and ordered hot chocolate and churros that she had been told were a local delicacy.
 
 
He’d watched her since the airport, stalked her like a lion. When he saw her stop he was glad to have the chance to sit and observe her. She was beautiful, a thick scarf stopping her sleek black hair falling across her eyes, as she concentrated on the guide book in her hand. She was wearing a short denim skirt, strappy flat sandals and a halter neck top that showed off her smooth shoulders. She could never be described as slim, he thought for the right adjective, curvaceous, definitely vivacious, most men’s ideal. He longed to run his fingers along her bare arms, touch those perfect round breasts, cup her delectable bum in his hands, strip her naked......
 
 When she glanced up at the waiter he gasped, those eyes, icy blue, he wanted to look into those eyes and ask her why she was doing this, what was going on in her head. But he had to bide his time, she was evasive, angry and on the run. He needed to play this perfectly. Timing was everything.
 
Matilda left a large note to cover her order and a hefty tip, then continued her stroll. Street art! She loved to paint, was sure that she was an artist. Here there were floor paintings, scribed with pastels and paints directly on to the stones of the pavement, and she paused to appreciate them, the mime artists were top class, the jugglers, caricature artists, all stunned her. By the time she had reached the top of Las Ramblas she had emptied her pockets of all her change, and there were a few street entertainers who had benefitted.
 
She consulted her guide book at the Placa de Catalunya, where next? Sagrada Familia? It was a must for this City, as was the Gaudi museum, she’d passed that somewhere on Las Ramblas, damn! She wished she knew where guide book had come from. She’d woken up in hospital the previous day, she had nothing other than the clothes she wore and some money and her bank card then a nurse had alerted her to this guide book, a house key and an address printed on a post it note stuck to a plane ticket.
 
She’d done the only thing she could imagine, she’d gone to the airport and flown to Barcelona, and here she was, still unsure of what this all meant. She’d had a headache since the fall and if she thought too hard, it came back with a vengeance.
 
She looked at the address; it wasn’t far from where she stood if she believed the map she’d picked up in the airport. Did she carry on looking around this awesome City? Or find out why she was here, what the connection was when she clearly had not been here before? Or not that she could remember.
 
He watched her across the square, seeing the quandary in her eyes, the confusion. She wasn’t sure of anything and he found that hard to understand, she oozed confidence, walked tall, with a stature he’d always admired, but when her sunglasses came off there were frown lines between her eyebrows, and a haunted look in her eyes.
 
He needed to act now, move in on her.
 
 
Purposely he strode across the wide intersection, loosely holding his newspaper and a book. As he turned to look back down Las Ramblas he deliberately backed into her, dropping his things elaborately.
 
Matilda spun around, full of apologies.
 
“I’m sorry I was dithering, are you ok?” She knelt down to help him gather his belongings that had scattered over the pavement.
 
“It’s ok!” his voice was deep, husky and raw with emotion. It surprised him, but had no effect on her. Standing up she smiled at him, he was gorgeous, short dark hair, a square, stubbled jaw and dark all seeing eyes.
 
“You speak English too! Do you know the City any better than me? I’m looking for an address, but the map doesn’t quite make sense!” As she spoke he stood up, uncoiling his tall broad frame, those dark deep brown eyes studying her intently. She staggered a little; he had an air of arrogance about him, and definitely some authority. But it was his good looks that almost knocked her off her feet.
“Hmmm,” he offered, “I know more than a tourist! I have a great idea, why don’t I study your map over a coffee?”
 
She wanted to snap out an irrefutable ‘yes’, she’d love to spend more time with this gorgeous man, but he was a stranger, this was a strange city. Nasty things could happen......
 
Looking into his eyes, the invitation and honesty seemed genuine, so she nodded, a cautious response, then breathed a sigh when he gestured towards the street cafe across the road. Outside was good. Nothing bad could happen with the world and his wife passing by!
 
“I’m Ivan, by the way,” he offered sliding a hand to cup her elbow and direct her across the busy road.
 
She paused to look at him, expecting a flicker of recognition but there was nothing; “I’m Matilda!” her words were lost in the zoom of traffic as he dragged her in a zigzag across the street.
 
Ivan ordered dark black espressos, sitting across the table from her smiling. He couldn’t believe she really didn’t know him, that this was real not something else to hide behind. She loved coffee; if he flooded her with her favourite things would she remember?
 
“So this is the address...” she finally handed him the address, after slowing to enjoy the dark strong coffee. “I can’t quite work out the map.”
 
He took both and turned the page in several directions before nodding, “along here,” he drew his fingers along a blue line on the map, “and then the third right. That...” he snapped his finger on to a point on the map, must be where you’re looking for.”
 
She leaned across to follow his finger, then looked up at him with a beautiful beaming smile, “thank you so much Ivan!”
 
He felt weak, her innocence, vulnerability caught him off guard; he had to keep on track, “So what’s there? Or am I being too rude asking?”
 
She shook her head, “I don’t know. I had an accident, and I can’t remember some stuff, but I’ve got this map, this address and a plane ticket.”
 
Ivan let out a long breath “Are you always a risk taker?”
 
 “I don’t remember.” She laughed, “The more you try to remember the more you forget.”
 
He smiled, but his face lacked humour, “so have you seen a doctor?”
 
“They discharged me from hospital, apparently I’ll get it back or I won’t. I remember major things like my family and childhood; it’s just some other stuff.....”
 
She saw his face drop, “sorry I’m boring you!”
 
He was struggling to deal with this impassive version of Matilda and he shook his head strongly, “no you’re not boring me. Let me at least escort you to your address.”
“I quite like not knowing anything, I’m kind of scared of what I might see or learn.”
 
“I can imagine....there are a lot of things I wish I could forget!” he agreed wistfully, and for a moment she felt sorry for this beautiful stranger.
 
She turned her doe-eyed expression up to him and smiled, “do you fancy site seeing with me?”
 
“Are you putting off going here?” he waved the address at her.
She nodded, “You look like you know where everything is!”
 
He nodded, “I know the City well.....” he couldn’t resist her persuasive side. So with a nod, he agreed.
 
With her small hand tucked into his elbow, Ivan crossed roads, led her past shops, all the time pointing out the sites that the City was famous for. The Park Guell, sat on a hill above the metropolis was both quaint with its bizarre architecture, and idyllic with its walkways cut into the mountains, lush gardens and outstanding views.
 
Like a child Matilda ran around excitedly, loving every moment of it.
 
Ivan was almost in tears watching her animated and having fun, she was putting off the inevitable, sub consciously she knew the address held bad news. Even if she didn’t know what that might be.
“Hey!” he eventually stopped her, “it’s late, I really want to see you home safely before it gets too late.”
 
“Aww! I love it here....”
 
“I know you do!” he said with more conviction than she realised. “But I can’t leave you here alone!”
 
Ivan led her by the hand to the entrance and waved down a taxi, even in her vulnerable state she wasn’t surprised at how close they’d become in the last four hours. She comfortably took his hand and let her lead her anywhere. He should be angry, but he couldn’t be.
 
The taxi arrived at the apartment building, and they got out.
 
“Will you come in with me?” she asked lightly, but she was pleading with her eyes.
 
He shook his head, taking her hands in his, “you need to do this alone! I won’t be far away.....” he watched her enter the apartment block and added quietly “.....ever.”
 
Matilda seemed to know which door was the right door without seeing a number, she knocked nervously, but there was no answer. Then with some unexplained knowledge, she pulled back the ‘Welcome’ mat and saw a gleaming key say beneath it. She felt sick as she straightened up; getting the key to the lock became her total focus. Turning it she gasped as the door opened.
 
Instantly she recognised the smell, the ornate hallway, and the lavish wood flooring. She remembered standing there many times, the sounds of a TV to her right, an art studio to her left, and something else.....
 
The patter of.......tiny feet.
 
She fell to her knees as things slowly came into focus.
 
Painting a picture in the lounge. She looked up to see the cityscape, the lights, the hubbub of Barcelona captured by her own hand, yet moments earlier she had no recollection of ever being there.
 
Ivan....he was there too. Today was no coincidence.
 
Pulling herself to her feet she walked slowly down the hallway, each step recapturing memories, but a new pain.
 
They were happy here, she could remember so many things, singing and dancing whilst she tried to cook dinner, making love in every room.  Him proposing on Christmas Eve after decorating the huge tree she’d forced him to bring in.
 
Then the test.....the pregnancy test.
 
Her blooming.
 
And the baby, darling Nico.......
 
She paused at the side table and lifted a framed picture, him in black tie, her in a simple white dress, taken high on in the Park Guell, laughing drinking champagne. How could they have ever been that happy?
 
With a sob she pushed open the door to her left, and froze her heard breaking all over again. The crib, the blue gingham blankets, the billowy white curtains, the rocking chair where she’d nursed him. It was a perfect room for a perfect baby.
 
She reached for a shawl, pulling it up to her face, inhaling the smell of her darling baby. Then she let out a wail, a terrifying sound, then the tears came. Tears she now knew she had never cried after the accident that killed him. A car spinning off the street, hitting his pram, killing him before she could lift him free of the wreckage.
 
Ivan was at the door to the apartment when he heard the scream, the doctors had warned him that this could happen, the same time they told him the amnesia was due more to emotional trauma than the bang to the head she’d had days earlier. He’d insisted on shocking her, bringing her back here, knowing that it would refresh all those wounds.
 
He rushed down the hallway, and finding her he pulled her into his arms, carrying her and the shawl still clasped by her white knuckles out of the room. In the lounge he sat, holding her against him, letting her cry, tears falling down his own face some at the still raw grief at the loss of their three month old son, two months earlier, but also for the wife he lost at the same time. Finally after months of chasing her from one painful and ill-fated disaster to another, he’d found her and brought it all to a head.
 
“Hey,” he murmured into her hair once the stream of tears seemed to ease slightly.
 
She shuddered gasping for breath before looking up at him, “what have I done?”
 
He eased back into the chair, pulling her closer to this body, “sshh darling. It’s nothing.”
 
She looked up at him through teary eyes and his heart broke yet another time, poor Matilda had to go through this all over again.
 
“I ran away....”
 
He nodded, “because you were blaming yourself sweetheart, you wished it had been you. But I don’t, it was dreadful to lose either of you, and there’s not a moment goes past that I don’t miss Nico. But we can get past this.”
 
“I thought you blamed me...”
 
“WHAT?” he sat forward, forcing her to look into his eyes. “It was an accident, no one’s fault. I have NEVER for one moment thought it was anything more than a terrible accident and I have thanked any God who’ll listen for saving you, for not taking both of you away that day. It could’ve been so different.” He wiped the tears from her cheeks with his thumbs, “we have to scatter his ashes, say goodbye Til, we can’t go on not dealing with this, not getting past it. He’s gone, but we have to move on, we owe his memory that.”
 
She shook her head, “I can’t do this Ivan, I need to go.”
 
As she tried to stand he held her firm, “We have to let him go darling. We’ll take his ashes to Guell release them into the wind, a happy place, and then we’ll talk, and talk, and then talk more. But I am NOT losing you darling.” His voice cracked, “I can’t live without you, can’t you see that?”
 
And it was all too much, she clung to him as the tears fell down her face, grief, pain anger and frustration, but amongst all that relief, relief that despite it all he didn’t blame her, that he still loved her. All that she had done had been her way of building a wall, unable to cope with his rejection on top of everything else. Now in his arms she knew that somehow they’d survive, somehow.


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