Late night and just too darned lazy to cook or dig out a frozen meal so he headed off to his local steak house, a drink before supper, a good steak and bed seemed like a reasonable plan. Maybe he would strike lucky and meet a pretty lady to brighten up the evening and warm his bed for him. Not that he was too hopeful, pickings had been slim recently and his mood hadn't helped. Neither had the intervention of what the shrink referred to as his "shadow" side. Harsh, judgmental, decisive, it had disposed of possible lovers brutally and with no redemption possible. He had to admit though that his "shadow" had most often been right and that it had gotten him out of a number of potentially nasty scrapes and, it had to be admitted, a couple of actual nasty scrapes.
The shrink said,"Integrate your shadow." but he and the shadow had resisted it. The shadow because it was contemptuous of the shrink and he (the light) liked to have the shadow around as a kind of backup and protection.
This evening however the shadow was slumbering quietly as it most often did and he ambled up to the bar and ordered a drink. Sitting with a group of office workers was a stunning woman with red and blue highlights in a mop of tousled honey blonde hair. He glanced across at her and wrote her off as out of his league and returned to contemplate his reflection in his drink. The shadowed stirred and took control of his eyes. He looked back to find her eyes on him. He and the shadow smiled, she smiled back and, as the party of office workers broke up, she passed close by, headed for the door. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. He held out a hand, and she stopped, one eye brow raised. "Join me for drink?"
She smiled and to his astonishment, slipped onto the stool next to him. The drink turned into dinner and the dinner just went on and on. They talked, they agreed on Jeff Koontz, they disagreed on Marlene Dumas. She believed in aliens visiting and they agreed to disagree. They laughed at their lives, they joked about the future and skimmed the past, both avoiding the pains that lurked there.
He sat back to look at her across the table and saw in her eyes what he felt in his head, his foot grazed hers under the table and she kept the pressure there, then somehow lost the shoe and rubbed his leg with stockinged foot. Soon, far too soon, the manager came across smiling shyly, regretfully, conspiratorially. "It is 11 and we are now closed. The staff need to go home." He was startled, the time had flown by without him noticing. For once the shadow and he agreed, take her home, keep her there, forever, by force if necessary. That was the shadows suggestion which he spurned completely. "She must stay at her own volition otherwise we are nothing." The shadow sighed and sadly agreed - for once he won and argument with it.
The tension between them was palpable as they exited the restaurant and almost in choreographically arranged unison, they stepped into a recessed door way, turned toward each other and engaged in what he would remember as the most pleasurable, frantic and desperate clinch. Like teenagers, they tried to meld, to join at hip at groin at hardened nipples at mouth. The clinch seemed likely to end in a display of public sex and as the thought started in his head, his hands with almost maniacal independence started toward the vee of her thighs.
She pulled back, fast, breathing hard, face twisted in rage, frustration, longing, something he could not decode or understand. She disengaged and ran away, leaving him breathless, erect and completely bewildered. What the fuck had just happened. The shadow took charge and he ran after her and caught her as she slid into her car, "What??" was all he could say, "What?What?What?"She just shook her head and, with tears streaming down her face drove away, leaving him alone in the midnight streets. A local prostitute took the brunt of his shadows frustration, his longing and their combined confusion and longing.
It was weeks before he went back to the restaurant and in the corner was the same group of office workers. His heart skipped a beat, he searched for her, but she wasn't there. Of course, she didn't want to know him. He slumped in his chair, shook his head and decided, on consideration, this was the wrong place to be, she haunted the place like an angry ghost. He saw her everywhere, felt her body on his, felt his need, lust and he rose to flee the place.
"Leaving so soon?" the voice was strong and confident. One of "her" colleagues had walked across while he wasn't watching and stood, in the chair where "she" had sat.
"Yes. Nothing for me here." The shadow now, bitter, angry, vengeful took charge and responded without opposition from him, swiveled his body away from her.
"And me? What about spending some time with me rather than moping for the next decade or so?"
The Shadow, uncurled from deep inside, looked the woman over carefully, stretched languidly and took charge.
"Now that is a very good alternative, please sit and tell me all about you."
"Jane." she said settling into the chair next to her.
"And that means I can have dinner with you and see if everything that she says about you is true."
"Oh, cummon, Liz, the woman you scanned our group so carefully for. Whose absence from the group nearly caused you to fall out of your chair with disappointment. Don't give me all this "Who?"
nonsense. We both know who you were looking for and she isn't here. Why? Cos she doesn't want to see you because she is afraid that you will be angry with her, will reject her. She is a fool. She ran and now she can't see a way back and you are not helping. You came here, you saw us and immediately the sun came out, and when she wasn't with us, it set again. Immediately."
"Barman, this gentleman is buying me a drink."
They chatted amicably, no real fireworks but comfortable and, in due course left together and ended up at her flat.
Jane was an experienced, energetic and happy lover and together they did things in bed that left them laughing, shuddering and ecstatic. A second date was arranged, consummated and another arranged.
He phoned her number to confirm their date, the voice that answered left him speechless.
"Liz Jameson, Jane isn't available, how can I help?"
Professional, cool, in control. Devastating.
He swallowed, hard."Hello?" her voice did things to his insides that he didn't want to think about.
"Hello?" confused, a bit impatient.
"Hi." he voice dried up. The shadow snarled derisively.
"Hello, are you there?"
Her voice transfixed him, skewered him, left him gasping. Unfair, devastating. Embarrassing.
"Can I help you?"
He gagged, stuttered and then in desperation allowed the shadow control.
The Shadow took charge: "Still running?"
A silence. The shadows waited.
The silence grew.
"Who is this?"
"Oh, come on, the way you ask that question betrays you. You know who. Say my name."
"Come on, Say my name. It won't enslave you."
"Shaun?" uncertain, hesitant, hopeful.
The shadow at this critical juncture withdrew.
The silence grew. Slowly, painfully, it grew.
They listened to the silence, breathing cautiously in case some random breath could destroy something priceless, fragile, life sustaining.
"Why did you run?"
The voice wasn't his, an amalgam of anger, pain, frustration, confusion. All unspoken griefs crowding in on him.
"I am sorry, I lost my courage. Too overwhelming, too . . .."
Her voice trailed off.
"Needy?" the shadow completed
"No. Demanding, I was afraid."
"You. Of the things I was feeling. I have never felt that way before. I felt that if I let you in I would be completely lost and then if you rejected me I would die . . . "
"Why would I reject you?"
"Because," the whisper tailed off, "No, I need to talk to you. Face to face. Not like this. Please. Soon. Now."
"No, not now." He needed time to get control; "Tonight. Same place. 8 pm."
She sighed, "Ok, see you then."
He walked in early against the urging of the Shadow and she was already there. Pale, beautiful, hesitant, frightened almost.
The Shadow snarled but he ignored it. He took her hand and in an archaic gesture, kissed her fingers. Without letting go of her hand he sat down opposite her.
She retrieved her hand and sat looking down, not moving. He waited, finally she looked up, "There is something you need to know about me before we go any further."
"That you are a man?" Knowing it was not possible, his hands had assured him of that before she fled.
"No, but I was one. Transgender they call it. I have been a woman for five years."
A cold wave surged up through his body. All the voices in his head were silent. An unnerving experience in its own right. Then the Shadow stirred, uttering its judgment non-verbally and he found
himself for once in his life at one with the creature that usually made his life a misery. Simply, decisively, without debate the decision was made.
"You can't have children?"
Slowly she shook her head. She sat looking down, avoiding his gaze.
"You are a woman in every other way?"
She nodded, still looking down.
He chuckled and she looked up, unsure, meeting his eyes for the first time since he walked in; "Good, I would make a lousy father. Now, are you hungry?"
Her eyes widened startled, she shook her head. "No." Cautious smile, "Nerves."
"Good, cos we are going back to my place and we are going finish what you interrupted by running away. Then we can worry about food and the future."
The light and hope in his heart seemed reflected in her eyes, she stood and as he stood facing her, she melted against him, he stroked her hair and peace descended on his soul.