Romantic short story:
Sometimes love swoops in like a summer breeze, catching you off guard in the most amiable way possible, stirring your heart like the warmth of sunlight. Other times, like today, I discovered that sometimes love comes in a relentless rain storm, thundering in the obstinate heart to get its attention and wrestling it into submission until the heart has no choice but to recognize love at its very door. Such was the case with my colleague Petunia Canterbury, the darker side of the moon compared to me, the ardent journalist who had all the answers when I was fresh out, the firestorm who eventually stole my heart.
For years we’d been working together as foreign correspondents, sometimes in over our heads in dangerous locales that we couldn’t even mention to homeland security upon our return for fear that we would be stuck in a detention center for days getting “debriefed.” To say our relationship was combative from the start would not be exaggerating. We were always at each other’s throats about decisions to cover stories, whom to interview, or how to write up a story. But the Associated Press called us, so we had no choice but to continue to work together or lose our jobs.
Our last assignment was the last straw, the argument to end all arguments. I had had enough and left with the intention of never seeing her again. That was over a year ago. But time passed and I found myself peculiarly missing her. I took homeland assignments to keep myself in journalism, but became restless and asked to be assigned to another foreign gig.
Now as I walk along the mud-caked road on a backwater somewhere in southern Laos, I allow the pouring rain to soak every inch of me. Thunder rolls in distant stereo as storm winds whip the fronds of palm trees along the side of the road. The humidity had already soiled my shirt with sweat, so the rain showers actually feel somewhat soothing as I traipse through ankle deep slosh and spit out rain water that has poured off my head onto my face. My saturated clothes feel like cellophane wrap plastered to every muscle on my body.
As I make my way to the local village where I have an interview with a farmer who is using a new method of crop irrigation, I find myself thinking of her – Petunia – the last person on earth I would ever want to see again. But here, on the other side of the world, I imagine the times we had, her whimsical blonde hair, her fierce lips that I always wondered what they would be like to kiss, and her saucy attitude that I strangely cannot get out of my heart.
Shaking me from my thoughts is the sound of a whirring motorbike riding through the mud, coming up behind me on the road I am traveling. A Laotian man is riding it with flip-flops and a tank top, completely oblivious to the fact that not only is he getting just as soaked as I am, but also that the rain storm is forcing his motorbike to go slower than a jogger’s pace. I wave as he passes, see his kind smile, and nod before he rides on. Sitting behind him on his bike is a woman clinging to his waist, maybe his wife, I assume.
As they disappear through the rain up ahead, I watch as the red brake light comes on and the bike stops. Thinking that he’s going to offer me a ride, I hustle to catch up to him, but then watch the woman hop off the bike and run toward me, too. She turns quickly, waves the driver away, and the bike disappears into the rain.
A wide smile forms on my face as I realize who it is.
“Petunia?!” I yell in the rain. A peal of thunder cracks overhead. I didn’t recognize her all wet, her blonde hair flattened and darker.
“I don’t believe this!” she yells back. “I thought it was you! What the hell are you doing all the way out here? Thought I left you chained to that domestic desk.”
“You’re a piece of work, you know that?” I reply. The sound of thunder rips all around us. “I try to leave the memory of you behind me by chasing a story to the far reaches of the earth, and who do I end up running into?”
She is silent for almost a minute, appraising me with a slight grin, uncaring of the rain showering over us. “You missed me,” she says in a softer tone.
My heart is beating at a mile a minute and to act on my impulses would be foolish for both of our sakes, but foolish is all I have to go on. I walk right up to her and while the rain drenches both of us, I plant a kiss firmly on her lips, my hand behind her head, holding her soaked hair.
I sense her resistance immediately, not that I wasn’t expecting it, and she moves back, wiggling away from me. Then she shoves me away, but I’ve seen her shove people before, and this was no shove. More like a jostle. A stubborn yet flirtatious effort.
I move in again, my arm around her waist, feeling the peak of her hard nipples through her wet shirt against my chest. I kiss her again, both of our mouths wet with rain water. This time, she opens her mouth slightly and my tongue slips in for a few seconds. Enough to feel like lightning has coursed between us.
Then she resists again, shoving me back harder. I pause, wondering if she’s serious. Waiting. But I see it in her eyes. Something animalistic that burns in my heart, too. Finally, she moves into my space and clutches my face with both hands, pressing her tongue to mine in savage vengeance.
For as long as it takes, while the rain showers over us, while the thunder serenades us with its soothing rumble, we kiss like lascivious lovers, knowing that from this moment on, a new partnership has been formed, and love has replaced animosity.