The lingerie section was complimented by luscious furniture and deep, intense colours. They played bordello music softly in the background – Spanish bolero, Cuban trova, timba and son and Columbian bambuco. And the mise-en-scéne never failed to arouse and seduce Dale. Even the mannequins were sexy by default.
Jocelyn often wore ripe raspberry panties with aching transparency, a luscious plum push-up with a recalcitrant temperament, and lace suspenders the colour of pearl that made him slave and sacrifice to the entanglements of her tan-pole legs. At home she often dressed in a citron-champagne negligee that hung from her like gossamer. It impregnated her flat with lavender and expectation, preserving the subtle suggestion of a door ajar – at least in the beginning.
She was the most sensual and irresistible wo he had ever met that let him touch her, taste her and in turn wanted the same of him. She was a one-in-six-billion In retrospect Dale found it hard to work out how they never worked it out.
‘You smell so fine,’ he said while on their first vacation since meeting on separate holidays three year ago.
‘You’re just saying that because I’m the faceless science behind the multi-billion dollar perfume industry.’
Ester was a chemical engineer who bashed random molecules together for a living, and by way of fluke, discovered and patented fragrances that never existed before and no one had ever smelt.
She was infinitely smarter than him, sassy, sardonic and self-deprecating. And a confident, challenging scent always followed her like the wake of shampooed hair.
Coming home after a work day, feeling baked and over-worked Ester always showered, revealing herself afterwards in a velvet fondue mist of seasonal harvest.
In summer it could be the tantalising panoply of stone fruit and stewed figs, diced up and seasoned with hints of sweet peppercorns and mint, and accompanied by the flamboyant vanilla overtones of an oaked Chardonnay.
She then might wear the Ambergris decay of autumn percolated through a delicate Ambrette umbrella of tannin, wet dirt and roasted squash, macerated into a more complicated essence with framboise and heather.
Onto the smoky peat of a winter’s dram, enveloped in the robust tincture of absinthe and fruit mince, with setaceous hints of parsnips and cloves.
Dale’s favourite was a dew covered muddle of pink grapefruit, pomegranate and rocket at dawn. Ester married this scent to the springtime. It infused the linen that made him not care about washing the sheet and stuck to his collared shirts.
When he wrestled her back into bed after she completed her pre-game morning ritual in the bathroom, which didn’t happen often, he savoured the citrus overture of her body. It softened with the heat of her reluctant body on his – blossoming into a pine forest picnic of ripe blood orange, melon rind, fleshy dates with a cheeky Pinos Gris to wash it all down.
She still wore the sexy underwear – but it was usually when she wanted to tease him. And then he’d taste the wrack and roe tapenade that belonged to her like a fingerprint.
They’d been married now almost five years. And from the moment Dale saw her standing at a bamboo bar in Mauritius he knew he would never tire of looking at her. However, there were moments, more recently exhumed from the murky depths of early memories – fleeting, yet they possessed him like sleep, or the somnolent lullaby of driving on long overland road trips.
He blamed the seasons, summer in particular and the brand of washing powder Ester bought.
Under the washing line in the portentous midday heat, trapped between walls of dry white cotton sheets, the suffusion of eucalyptus and lemon grass takes him back, all the way to the field behind the soap factory. He again sees the faces of the clouds reflect his own jejune contentment. He can feel the weight of her press on him and the long, dry grass crackle beneath him – so when they finally peel themselves off from under their tree, to head back to the soap factory and school they leave an indelible stencil of themselves like making snow angels.
Dale sinks deeper into the load of dried washing with the empty laundry basket. He watches hay seeds blow past in the dry wind and catch the sun like beads of light. He feels the daily vicissitudes melt like sugar. The onerous accountability of domestic reality and mental limbus of continual nagging grow light and translucent and evanesces into the ethers. With his head buried in the sheets Dale grovels in the moment suspended from the vagaries of life. It is the taste of Italian amaro – a bitter sweet feeling of pleasant hopelessness.
Part of him occasionally looks for her on busy streets while driving his car, and in shopping centres – inveigling consorts of destiny and coincidence so that he might run into her randomly. What would he say? Would they even recognise one another? Dale knew it was all folly – the conclusion was set so long ago.
He conceded some part of him will never stop wanting the soap factory girl. The frightening imperfect perfection of it all. It’s between words – existing somewhere between regret and inevitability. Something to do with first love he reconciles. As the feeling subsides he start to wonder what he’ll each for lunch and when he can get away with his first beer of the day.