Sensing You Excerpt © J.M. Adele 2016
The imposing beauty of old Government House filled my vision. I stood like a statue on the perfectly manicured lawn in front of the sandstone magnificence. My stomach tumbled, and the skin of my neck and arms prickled with fear and excitement. I loved old buildings. Old, haunted buildings. I just couldn’t bring myself to go inside them. I spent a great deal of time avoiding spirits, so the idea of putting myself in their path, on purpose, went against my instincts. Ridiculous, I know. But this was all about taking back control.
I pouted my lips, and slowly breathed in and out through my nose, shaking my arms and legs in preparation for battle. Stepping into the building, I could almost feel the people who’d lived here generations before. It smelled of ingrained dust. Not the dirty kind. Just the irremovable layering of years in the pores of every surface. Rich burgundy shaded the walls, complementing the rich, dark wood of the windows and doors. This was the womb of the house, dark and crowded, but cosy.
The receptionist started her welcome speech, offering me a brochure, and pointing the way to the courtyard café where I ‘might like to end my tour’. Not likely. I took it by my fingertips, careful not to make contact, and moved past the people watching a documentary on a small screen. Immediately, I was drawn to the Governor’s Library, and not because of the books. I could see her. A maid wearing a black dress with layers of skirts and a white apron. She bustled around, dusting every surface. Humming quietly, quite happy in her work. A relieved breath eased from my lungs. I could do this. The smile that stretched my face felt foreign, but welcome in this public place.
I worked my way back to the winding staircase that led to the art gallery. Yet another reason I was drawn to this place. The display of William Robinson’s works. He won the Archibald Prize two times. Twice! He was more of an expressionist than a realist. A misfit like me appreciated the individual interpretation of his views on life.
I wandered through the bedrooms turned into art displays, until I reached the self-portrait of the artist with his brother, clad in opposing outfits. Comfy PJ’s versus knowledge and power. Both of them depicted with solemn expressions. The laugh bubbled up from my gut, escaping without my permission, just like the smile I’d been wearing before. It felt fucking awesome to let it out. Until I heard a deep laugh join the melody of mine.
My tailbone throbbed at seeing him again. He was laughing at my shoes, not the painting. What’s so funny about my sneakers? I watched as his eyes travelled over me, the pupils growing larger despite the bright light streaming in the windows. My heart pounded, and my muscles tightened in response. I wanted to run before they reached my face, but I was too slow. He looked at me, rendering me speechless with his smile. He didn’t smile like that before. Given the circumstance of our past meeting, I probably would’ve slapped it off his face. Now, it’s an art work all on its own.
My heart galloped along, out of control. Lord knows where it wanted to go, but it definitely felt like it wanted to leave my chest and leap into someone else’s. It was scaring the shit out of me. His smile faded a little and he took a step back, and said something about the artwork. I couldn’t answer. My vocal chords had checked out on me, apparently on board with the travel plans taking place inside my rib cage.
His boots thumped against the floorboards as he retreated another step. He was looking at me strangely, continuing to prattle about the painting. I couldn’t figure out what he was thinking, but his feet spoke for him. Two times he backed away… Twice. I was used to it. I encouraged it. I couldn’t afford to let people in. But watching him stand there looking scruffy and dangerous… holy shit… he was sexy. I didn’t want him to back away. I wanted him to take a step closer. But those buckled, biker boots backed up, slicing a piece off my tough exterior as they went. With my vulnerable centre exposed, the second step cut even deeper. I couldn’t let it happen again. So I ran.
That’s what I do. I’m good at it.