Ain't love grand? - Editor
Heavenly Scent of Strawberry
by Christine C Terranova
Even under the artificial light of the bookstore her angelic glow radiated. I had to force myself not to stare at her as she repeatedly pulled books down from the shelf, carefully ruffled through them with her long, delicate fingers, and then returned them to their initial location.
I pretended to be interested in a book so I could remain close to her without seeming suspicious. A part of me hoped she would notice me and perhaps we could start up a conversation, but another part of me hoped she would leave the bookstore soon, so I could regain my bearings and leave as well. Unfortunately, she noticed me.
“Turner, is that you?” she asked. I removed my nose from the book I was holding and altered my countenance. I wanted it to say, “I haven’t been stealing glances of you for the last seven minutes.”
“I’m fine,” she answered. She brushed her hair away from her face like she always did in class, and the scent of strawberries filled my nostrils. I love strawberries. They’re so soft, delicious and juicy. It was hard to keep from salivating at the smell. “And how are you?” she inquired.
I told her that I was doing okay, but I actually felt uncomfortable. Standing so close to the love of my life was pleasurable but also overwhelming. If she had any idea of how I felt about her, Anabelle would perhaps never speak to me again. I didn’t want that to happen, so I tried to act as nonchalant as possible when around her. It seldom worked. Being near her wasn’t the easiest thing, especially with the scent of strawberry clouding my judgment.
“I’m like a moth to the flame when it comes to books,” she stated as if defending her reason for being in the bookstore. “But I have to admit, this is my first time here. Usually I buy books from Edges.” The curve of her mouth extended into a sly yet playful smile. “I should’ve been coming here all along I guess.”
She was flirting with me. At least, I assumed she was. Women are hard to read, but the idea was enough to shift my gaze upward and contemplate the “EXIT” sign conveniently positioned above her head. No matter how inviting it looked, though, I couldn’t move my feet. I was glued in place and knew the proper thing to do was to keep the conversation in motion.
“Moths are sad creatures. If I could, I’d carefully pull out their wings in order to save them from the flame. Sure it would hurt to have their wings removed but it couldn’t be as bad as burning to death,” I said.
She was used to my bizarre comments. Many people couldn’t comprehend my thought process, but she and I shared some kind of connection. “Maybe that’s why people aren’t born with wings,” she replied. “We’d be dumb enough to fly into the sun,” she laughed. Her carefree nature was admirable. However, for a brief second I thought I saw sorrow soiling her cornflower eyes.
If it was there, then she immediately masked it by changing the subject. “I think you and I should be lab partners again,” Anabelle commented. “We make a good team.”
Last semester we were both enrolled in Chemistry 101. That’s when I first met her. Out of all the seats in the classroom, I sat in the one next to hers. It wasn’t on purpose, though. Due to my alarm malfunctioning, I was late arriving to class on the first day, and, by the time I got there, that seat happened to be the only one available. I have that day etched in my heart as both a blessing and a curse.
This semester, we shared Biology 246. It made me wonder if she was a science major also. I didn’t have the nerve to ask. What if she and I really did share the same major? If I knew of the classes she needed to take, it could alter my future scheduling decisions. I felt it best to let the dance of destiny play out to its own tune.
“Sure, I’d like that,” I responded. It sounded harmless enough, but inside me roared the heart of a lion. She and I were to be partners for a second time! Then the realization of that statement hit me. Again I felt torn between my want to be near her and my want to run screaming in the other direction. I stood my ground, though, without displaying my true emotions.
Our discussion only lasted maybe five minutes, but it felt as if time stopped as we stood together in the bookstore. I knew time continued to pass, however, by the movement of our mouths and the flow of our words. The moment was beautiful, but at the word “good-bye” that echoed from her luscious lips, it faded and I was left alone.
Although the bookstore is only two blocks from my apartment, it is not a place I visit often. Unlike Anabelle, I don’t read much. On that particular day, though, it was as if someone had whispered “go to the bookstore” in my ear all night as I slept. I awoke with the urge to go there and look what happened when I did.
Being with her there was completely different than seeing her in class; it was more intimate. In class, all the other students surrounded and suffocated us, but that wasn’t an issue when it was only her, me and the books. At first I thought the incident with the seating arrangement in Chemistry 101 was merely a coincidence, but the encounter at the bookstore had me believing that fate wanted me and Anabelle to be together. I thought life couldn’t get any better, but then we had another encounter.
About a week later, I was sitting in Cellano’s Seafood and Steak House – my favorite restaurant – waiting for my friend Bill. I had been waiting for twenty minutes already. By this point in time, I knew that Bill was not going to show. It happened quite often so it didn’t upset me. Instead, after finishing my appetizer of shrimp en brochette, I ordered my entrée. As I was waiting for it, the most beautiful woman in the world walked in.
The sun that pierced through the window of the entrance doors turned her long, curly blonde hair golden. She wore an elegant baby blue sundress accented by white high-heeled shoes and a pearl necklace and earring combination. Every last detail of her appearance had been thought out. Even the dark, shimmering blue nail polish fit in perfectly, and all of it highlighted her wonderful blue eyes.
The image of her entering the restaurant was flawless except for the belligerent piece of trash that escorted her in. It had two arms and two legs and went by the name of Jacob. I had met him on a few occasions when he would come see Anabelle after class, and I don’t think a bigger jerk existed anywhere else in the universe.
In all honesty, I couldn’t hate Jacob as much as I wanted to because he and I shared some physical attributes. For one thing, we both had dark brown hair, although I kept mine tamed with a Caesar Cut and he had let his grow out of control. He constantly swung his head to the side to keep his bangs from falling in front of his eyes.
Another thing we had in common was our build. We both had a rectangular shape even though I was lacking his height (from my estimate, Jacob was about six feet two inches). I was ashamed to admit that we even seemed to have the same taste in clothes. We both had chosen a dark red shirt and khaki cargo pants. However, I wore a double knit polo shirt whereas he merely wore a common t-shirt.
As the hostess ushered Anabelle and Jacob to a table not far from my own, I realized how much of a contrast existed between the colors red and blue. Neither Jacob nor I were good enough for her; she deserved more than either of us could offer. Regardless, I flashed a quick grin at her as she gracefully walked by, throwing a wave and a smile at me behind Jacob’s back. It pleased me to know that I was important enough to sneak expressions to, and it angered me that any man would walk ahead of her like that. How could Jacob not want to see her magnificence as she approached the dinner table?
Once the two of them sat down, I made sure to keep my eyes fixed on my own table. It was easy enough to do since my back was to them, but every now and then I wanted to switch seats so I could see what they were up to. Luckily the food I ordered was brought out shortly, so my urges were calmed as I occupied my time by stuffing my face. However, I could still hear their voices.
At first the words were quiet. Since I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, I didn’t make out the beginning of their conversation. Then their voices grew louder and eventually I could hear everything that was said.
“Look, I just don’t feel the same way anymore,” Jacob said. I took a sip of my water.
“But we’ve been dating for two years,” Anabelle replied. I dipped a fry in the puddle of ketchup on my plate and shoved it into my mouth. I was right about Jacob being a jerk.
Jacob lowered his voice but I could still hear him. “Well, I’ve been seeing Eliza for about five months now and I think –” he paused and I swallowed my food. Anabelle didn’t say anything. I assumed, like me, she was waiting to hear the rest of Jacob’s statement.
“I think she’s, you know, ‘the one’ I guess.”
A rush of anger flooded inside of me, but I knew it wasn’t my place to interrupt the two of them. I gulped down some more water and began picking at my entrée, trying to turn my focus away from the private conversation. I couldn’t ignore it, though.
In a sobbing voice, Anabelle responded, “You cheated on me?”
“Yeah,” Jacob affirmed. “You’re too trusting, Anabelle. You need to grow up a little.”
I wanted to turn around and punch him, but I knew that her personal life had nothing to do with me. So I sat there and let him ruin her innocence.
“I can do that,” Anabelle cried. By now the argument had reached a volume where I was sure it could be heard by all surrounding tables.
“I can grow up if that’s what you want. Please don’t leave me,” she begged. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. He had hurt her, cheated on her, made a fool of her. Why would she want him to stay?
As I was finishing the fried catfish, I overheard Jacob. “You don’t get it, do you? I don’t want to repair my relationship with you. I’ve got Eliza now,” he said.
Between the tears and snuffles, Anabelle managed to blubber, “Fine. Just go then. Just leave me alone.”
He must have tried to comfort her because suddenly she yelled, “Don’t touch me! Just go away.”
No matter how bad I wanted to, I didn’t turn around. I’m sure the last thing Anabelle wanted was an audience. Without watching the scene, I could still gather an image of what was happening. I heard Jacob throw down a utensil and slide his chair out. “Alright, I’m leaving,” remarked Jacob, and, even though he never noticed me, I scowled at him as he left the restaurant leaving the poor, innocent Anabelle alone with her untouched meal.
I couldn’t think straight. Should I go over there or should I stay here? Should I try to comfort her or should I leave her alone? To her, I was only a lab partner. It’s not like I was a close and personal friend that she could rely on. After weighing the options, I made the decision to remain seated.
She came to me, her eyes wiped clean of the tears. “Can I sit with you?” she softly asked. I could see the puffy redness of her eyes and the trails of saltwater on her cheeks. She was doing her best to fight the tears, and it seemed that sitting with me would help her do that.
“Of course,” I responded. How could I ever deny her? I quickly jumped out of my seat to help her into hers. Once I tucked her chair under the table, I returned to mine and looked down to the empty plate in front of me. I didn’t know what to say or if I should say anything, so I waited.
“Jacob is an ass,” commented Anabelle. I had plenty I could say on that subject, but I stayed quiet. After all, she needed an ear not a mouth right now. “Apparently, he’s been cheating on me for quite some time now and I was too stupid to realize it.” She paused. I spied her left index finger tapping the table. She did that in class when she was looking for an answer. “He kind of abandoned me here with no car, and I left my purse in his truck. I was wondering,” she hesitated, “if you could perhaps pay for my meal and then maybe drive me home?”
I was shocked by her candor. She was usually more timid in class. I found it odd that she would ask for my help when we weren’t that close, but I blamed it on the breakup. She was merely out of character at the moment.
A few tears trickled down her cheek, but a wondrous smile brightened her face. The smile was forced, but it was still amazing and I, being the weak person that I am, succumbed. “Of course I’ll help you out,” I replied.
This time the smile she gave me was genuine. “Thank you, and I’ll pay you back as soon as possible. I promise,” she stated. All of her happiness relied upon me. I was her savior in this bleak moment; her shining light in a blanket of unfathomable darkness. Or at least that’s what she probably thought.
The drive to her apartment was splendid. She joked and laughed, pretending that her esteem was still whole and intact, and I carried on with a playful smile on my face. For some reason, Anabelle seemed more attainable. Perhaps it was due to the fact that she no longer had a boyfriend, but something in me changed. The nervousness I usually felt around her didn’t surface. I felt like I actually had a chance. I thought that maybe she and I would make a good couple after all. Then we reached what I thought would be our final destination.
At first I didn’t see the scene because my eyes were glued to Anabelle, but after noticing the disheartened look upon her face, I followed her gaze and spotted Jacob. The sweetness in the air turned sour. The man wasted no time in obtaining his things from the apartment that he and Anabelle apparently shared.
The tears started up again. I reached in my glove compartment and pulled out a few napkins for her. She smiled at the gesture and then let her thoughts surface. “I swear, I’m just like my mother,” she said. “The woman’s been married three times. She keeps falling for these losers who end up either cheating on her or beating her,” she sniffled and turned her head to me.
“I mean, Jacob isn’t the worst guy in the world. He didn’t abuse me. But every time I think I’ve found something true it blows up in my face.” I didn’t comment because, again, I felt that she didn’t want a conversation. She merely wanted someone to listen to her, but I contemplated the possible future that existed for her. People have a tendency to follow their parents’ footsteps.
“Maybe Jacob’s right,” she continued. “I should grow up. Love doesn’t really exist and the sooner I realize that, the better.”
My heart stopped. How could one man ruin a woman’s hope for adoration? I wanted to express my feelings to her, to let her know that she meant more than life itself to me, but the words wouldn’t come. Instead, I stared at her and asked what I could do to help.
“That’s nice of you, Turner, but I don’t think there’s anything you can do for me,” she answered. She turned her sight back to the cockroach that scuttled into and out of her apartment.
As Anabelle gazed at her ex-boyfriend, a wave of heat flooded her delicate cheeks. Her eyes slanted, and a horizontal crease formed on her forehead. “Actually, there is something you can do,” she said. The facial tension disappeared. She turned her head, gazed into my eyes and whispered, “I’d like to see your place. Take me there.”
Again, I was taken aback by her bluntness, but I tried to remain rational. Clearly, she was not aware of her words. The shock of the breakup must have finally caught up to her, and since I was the one nearest to her at the moment, it was my responsibility to think up a safer alternative.
“How about we head to campus?” I offered. Surely we could find something there to pass away the time. Then, after a while, I could bring her back to her apartment. Hopefully by then it would be cleared of the filth.
“No,” she firmly stated, “I know what I’m doing. I want to go home with you.” The tears were gone. A second ago Anabelle seemed so frail, but now she had been replaced by a temptress. No room for compromise remained. She would get what she wanted no matter how irresponsible and dangerous the decision was. My Anabelle would have never said that. Her anger towards Jacob had put her in self-destruct mode; she was in the process of losing her purity.
Every thought in my mind told me to drop her off at the college instead of following her request, but apparently my desire for her outweighed all reason because soon we were parked outside of my apartment and she was exiting the vehicle. I had been thinking so hard about how to handle the mess that I didn’t even recall the drive from her apartment to mine. But somehow, even with my brain malfunctioning, my hands and feet performed the necessary actions.
I unlocked the door to my apartment and opened it for Anabelle. She glided into the living room as if the place belonged to her and then made herself comfortable by plopping down on one of the sofas. The room was spinning. I couldn’t tell if I was walking, standing, sitting or lying down. All I recall in the blur of that moment was her warm, wet tongue intertwining with mine. It was a kiss that my angel would have never planted, but with it my life came into focus and the world had meaning.
I knew what I had to do to restore her innocence and save her from future pain. The tune of her giggles filled my ears as I carried her to my bedroom and threw her on my bed. She was the only thing that mattered. I understood Anabelle better than anyone else did. She and I were soul mates. Sharing the same classes, encountering each other at the bookstore, dining at the same restaurant, those weren’t coincidences. Chance meetings didn’t exist; destiny wanted us to be together, and it had led us to this moment.
I hesitated at first. After all, I would never get a second chance and I wanted the action to be perfect. Perhaps I didn’t have it in me to go all the way. I began to lose faith in myself until I watched as Anabelle removed her pearl necklace and placed it on my nightstand. She invitingly grazed her hand across her elegant, exposed neck.
I stood there waiting to see what she would do next, but nothing new came to pass. The necklace was the only thing she made any attempt to take off, and the gesture suggested that she was well aware of my true intention. In fact, according to the brilliance of her sparkling eyes, it appeared she welcomed it.
She must have been aware that her fall from grace had begun. Why else would she have requested my company? Why else would she have invited herself into my arms?
I climbed onto the bed making sure to take in every aspect of Anabelle’s form before performing the deed. She would not be the same afterwards. The delay must have irritated her because she grabbed my hand and rubbed it along her cheek. I think I was less prepared than she was.
I let my hand trace her mouth and then lowered it to her shoulder. I shivered slightly as a chill crept up my spine. Within that small, dimly lit room I mustered up all of my courage and wrapped my hands around her throat. If I didn’t use every ounce of strength inside of me, the strangulation could take hours, and I wanted it to be as painless as possible for my sweet Anabelle.
She closed her eyes and I intensified my grip. I felt disgusted with myself for what I was doing to my innocent, angelic Anabelle. I couldn’t believe that the life of the woman I loved was extinguishing under my hands, but the knowledge that this was the only way she would remain pure allowed me to continue. However, as I was immersing in the guilt of my action, euphoria overtook me.
The fact that she had chosen me to bring her death was true bliss. I had offered to bring her somewhere besides my apartment but she had refused. And now there was no turning back. She was mine and only mine. Not a single person in the universe would ever have her like I had her.
Her body instinctively fought me, but I held on even tighter. I would be her carrier to a better life where worry and hardship would never find her. Once free of the fragile shell of a human, her title of Angel would be replaced by Goddess, and Anabelle would be blessed with eternity. There would be no journey into the flames.Sensing her release, I removed my hands from Anabelle’s tender neck and stared at the bruises. Even in death her body was beautiful. I leaned down and kissed her forehead. “Sleep sound, my goddess. No one can damage you now,” I whispered, and the scent of strawberries engulfed me as I sat on the bed stroking her hair.