Unforgettable Embrace, page 1
By Joanne Clancy
Copyright 2011 Joanne Clancy
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I am officially fat. Rachel Jenkins surveyed her naked body critically in her full-length and rather unforgiving bedroom mirror, and made a silent promise that she would join a gym immediately. Time is of the essence, she thought to herself, pinching the definite layer of flab sitting uncomfortably around her usually fairly toned mid-section. Her thighs had developed a few more lumpy bits, despite her lashing on tubs of expensive anti-cellulite cream. Damn you Anthony Raynard, Rachel thought in annoyance as she pinched her chubby bits. I suppose that's what breaking up with the self-declared love of my life has done to me, she muttered to herself, that and bucket loads of red wine and shed loads of ice cream.
Anthony was Rachel's first love and long-term boyfriend. They had been going out since they were teenagers. They had met at school and continued on to university together, where she had qualified with a first class honours degree in French literature and Anthony had achieved a Masters in Financial Management.
Rachel was a supervisor at a multinational call-centre for hotel reservations via the internet, a job which she thoroughly enjoyed, as much for the free holidays in five star hotels as some of the people she worked with every day.
Anthony was a high-powered funds manager at a very prestigious stockbroking practice in the city.
Rachel's thirtieth birthday was fast approaching and with it she was experiencing a somewhat early mid-life crisis. She was doing a major life audit and spring clean and of course the biggest part of her life was Anthony. She realised that even though she loved him dearly, it was more like a brotherly love that she felt for him than a romantic love.
They'd even stopped buying each other thoughtful, personal birthday and Christmas presents, and instead used their money to buy practical items-such as furniture etc. Rachel couldn't even remember the last time Tony had bought her flowers.
She knew it was as much her fault as it was his. They'd both stopped working at the romantic side of their relationship a long time ago. They were so caught up in work and the practicalities of life that they neglected their relationship.
He was often working late and she was often in bed before him. Tony suggested going out to dinner on several occasions, even to the Chinese restaurant down the road, but Rachel found herself in her pyjamas, just wanting to curl up on the sofa and get a takeaway in front of the TV.
They knew everything there was to know about each other. They almost knew what the other one was thinking before they even said it aloud.
They had become one of those slightly irritating couples who finished each other's sentences; it had even started to become annoying to Rachel herself.
She felt like an old woman, when all the women around her seemed to be enjoying heady affairs and love trysts, even heartbreak, Rachel found herself longing for a bit of drama.
She couldn't remember when her heart had last skipped a beat at the thought of being with Tony. It was all so boring and predictable.
Of course she and Anthony had discussed having children together, and she knew he would be an amazing father. He adored children and every Christmas would volunteer his time collecting money for the local children's charity.
He even spent a few hours on Christmas Day helping out in the food kitchens cooking dinner for the homeless.
He was a very kind, loving and dependable man who would have done anything to help anyone, especially Rachel, but she was starting to realise that she wasn't in love with him anymore. She'd agonised over her decision to break up with him for a long time.
She wondered if she'd ever meet anyone else again, but she knew in her heart she had to take the plunge. Her life with Tony was not the life she wanted.
The whole relationship had started to become just a little too comfortable for Rachel. Where was the excitement and romance? She was sure of Anthony, but was that enough? Maybe they just needed a break from each other for a while, to try new things, experience new people and gain a different perspective on life. After all, they had been practically joined at the hip since they were sixteen. Neither one of them had ever dated anyone else.
Tony was a gentle lover, but not very adventurous. The few occasions when she had suggested spicing up their love life had been met with a fairly lukewarm reception. When she'd brought home a book about the Karma Sutra he'd gone very pale when he'd looked at the various positions involved. They had attempted a few manoeuvres but quickly gave it up as a bad job, reverting to their usual missionary position.
Tony liked routine, even in the bedroom, and it had all started to get rather mundane and boring for Rachel. She sometimes caught herself daydreaming as to what another man would be like.
Could sex be as exciting and romantic as the Mills and Boon books she used to read when she was a teenager? How would someone new touch her, make her feel? How would he smell and taste? The thought of making love with another man made her feel all tingly inside.
Rachel was surprised at how well Anthony had reacted to her suggestion that they take a break for a while, maybe even permanently. He had been a little taken aback at first but after a long chat he agreed with her and said that he had been experiencing similar thoughts and feelings to her own.
He too felt that it would be an exciting adventure to discover other people and situations without the reliability of each other, but more than that she was relieved that he wasn't devastated by the split.
Well, a smidgeon of devastation would have been nice but it just reinforced in Rachel's mind that she was doing the right thing for both of them by ending their relationship. Rachel had been vaguely perturbed at how easily Anthony had agreed with her.
Unquestionably they would remain friends. After all, they had been the main centre of each other's lives for many years and they didn't want to just throw all that history away.
Rachel had helped Anthony pack his belongings. He was happy to move in with his parents for a while, until he found a new place of his own.
Rachel had even driven him to his parents’ house and helped him unload his baggage. They had all sat together at the familiar kitchen table and drank tea while breaking the news of their split to Mr. and Mrs. Raynard, who were more upset by their break up than Rachel and Anthony.
Mrs. Raynard just couldn't quite grasp the fact that Tony and Rachel's romantic relationship was finished.
She was a very prim and proper woman, who liked everything to be just so. She had a perfectly organised routine and hated it when anything or anyone deviated from her plans or expectations. She had been thoroughly convinced that Tony and Rachel would be together for life.
“I was sure that you two were going to announce your engagement any day now,” Mrs. Raynard sighed, “after all it's not like either of you is getting any younger. Doctors say that the prime age for a woman to have her first child is twenty five, and you are a few years past that age now, Rachel.”
“Mrs. Raynard, we just need a little break, who knows it may not even be permanent,” Rachel tried to soothe her.
“I know, dear, but I always thought that you and Anthony were perfect for each other.”
“The grass isn't always greener on t
Mr. Raynard was a fan of clichés, and sprinkled them liberally throughout most of his conversations.
“Yes, Mr. Raynard,” Rachel responded with just a hint of exasperation in her voice. “I realise that the grass isn't necessarily greener on the other side, but Tony and I have decided that we need a change and a break from our relationship.”
“Hmm, who knows, that grass might just be a shade greener elsewhere,” said Anthony, with a disconcerting glint in his eye.
Rachel glanced at him sharply and was taken aback by his unflinchingly stony gaze.
Rachel took Anthony's expression and the sudden frosty atmosphere as her queue to leave. She wasn't quite sure how to make her exit. This would be the first time in many years that she would be leaving “Sky View” cottage without Anthony.
She pushed her chair back from the table and got somewhat shakily to her feet.
“Well, I'll be off now,” Rachel smiled weakly at everyone.
“Bye then,” Anthony said shortly, still looking at her with that hard expression.
Rachel wasn't used to this reaction. Anthony always gazed at her adoringly, with nothing but love in his eyes. They rarely fought, at worst they had minor disagreements, which he usually conceded to her. Rachel was starting to feel rather unsettled, and even unwelcome.
“Thank you for everything, Mr. and Mrs. Raynard.”
Rachel wasn't sure if she should shake their hands or hug them. She decided to just leave as quickly as possible. She made her way rather hastily towards the door.
Mrs. Raynard stopped her as she got to her car. “Goodbye, Rachel dear,” she said kindly. “I do hope you two will stop this silly nonsense and get back together very soon.” She hugged Rachel. “Goodbye, Mrs. Raynard,” Rachel hugged the older lady tightly. “I'll miss you and “Sky View” cottage very much.”
“You're welcome any time dear,” Mrs. Raynard smiled at Rachel gently, “take care of yourself.”
Rachel looked in the rear view mirror and saw Mrs. Raynard still waving as she drove away. She took a deep breath and realised that she had just closed the door on a very large part of her life. My past life, she thought to herself. It's all about my future now. I wonder where the future will take me, she mused as her Mini Cooper whizzed past the rolling hills and green fields. She vaguely remembered Anthony's caustic remark about the grass being greener on the other side. I suppose he's entitled to be upset, she pondered magnanimously.
It wasn't long before Rachel was pulling into the underground parking attached to her apartment. She put the key in her front door and for a second wondered why it seemed so empty. My first official evening as a singleton, she thought. She wandered around the apartment, remembering where Anthony's little knick knacks used to be positioned. Not exactly positioned, she thought, more strewn. Anthony was a very untidy person. He defended his untidiness at home by insisting that it was a reaction to how precise and accurate he had to be at work as a funds manager.
Rachel got a thrill at all the storage space she had gained. Her idea of heaven would be to have a walk-in wardrobe, with a perfect shelf or cupboard for her rather large collection of clothes, accessories, make-up, and of course, most importantly, lots of room for her shoes.
Rachel was obsessed with shoes. They were the one thing she could always rely on for a pick me up. No matter how fat or thin she got, she knew she could depend on a pretty size five shoe to fit her perfectly.
The shoes didn't even have to be very expensive. Most high street shops had a wonderful collection of shapes and colours. Faith and Office were her favourite shoe shops, but her ultimate dream was to own a pair of impossibly high stiletto Louboutins. Those red-soled beauties gave her a tingle every time she saw them in House of Fraser.
She had shown Anthony the Louboutins one Saturday afternoon. He had liked them, saying that they gave her instant sex appeal, but he'd almost swooned when he'd seen the price tag. “That's a month's supply of groceries and the rent!” he'd squeaked in a high pitched tone.
His voice tended to go up an octave or three when he was distressed.
“Not quite a month's supply, darling,” Rachel had retorted, as she walked away, leaving Anthony clutching the Louboutins.
I can spend all my money on shoes now, she reflected to herself as she began to bin the last few of Anthony's half-empty toiletries in the bathroom, replacing his shelf with her myriad collection of bath oils and perfumes.
I wonder what sort of shelves Ikea has in stock, she daydreamed. Ikea was like storage heaven for Rachel. She spent hours browsing through their catalogue and imagining various wardrobe and cupboard combinations in her apartment.
She was a bit of a DIY enthusiast and really enjoyed putting flat pack furniture together. Tony was hopeless at DIY. It was the one thing he wasn't remotely good at and had no interest in whatsoever. He couldn't even fix the aerial on the portable television!
Rachel owned all the tools and DIY sets-in pink, of course. “I'm glad they're in pink,” Tony had often joked, “otherwise I might start to feel like your bitch, especially when you strap on your tool belt.”
The shrill ringing of her mobile phone woke her from her pleasant reverie. It was Jenna Price, her best friend calling.
“Hey, Jen,” Rachel smiled down the phone.
“Rachel! My love, have you done it? Is the mission accomplished?”
Jen had a very excitable way of talking, and tended to talk in military terms sometimes. It was an odd habit that she'd picked up from an ex-boyfriend, and which highly amused Rachel.
She was an enthusiastic person by nature, but never more so than when talking to her friends. Jen chose her friends carefully as she considered her friends to be her chosen family. She'd had a difficult childhood.
Her mother was an alcoholic and her father couldn't cope with raising children on his own, so Jen had been fostered by several families when she was growing up. She said that she never felt like she belonged with anyone, when she was growing up, but that her friends were the constant relationship in her life.
Rachel and Jen had known each other since their first day at school. Jen would always say that she couldn't pick her family, but she could certainly choose her friends, whom she loved dearly and chose wisely.
“Yes, the mission has been accomplished Jen,” Rachel replied, feeling a bit like a character in a James Bond film.
“Excellent,” Jen enthused, “now we can become partners in crime on the singles dating scene.”
“I'd like some time just to enjoy being by myself for a while,” Rachel responded. “I haven't been alone since Anthony and I first started dating when we were sixteen.”
“Hmm, that is a long time to be with the same person,” Jen agreed. “What is it the experts say-you need one month to recover for every year you've been in a relationship, which means fourteen months for you.”
“Actually,” Rachel interrupted, “I read in a magazine last month that it's half the time you were in a relationship, so I might need to be alone for seven years.”
“Forget that!” Jen exclaimed, “you don't want to take too long before you get back out there, after all, you're not getting any younger.”
“That's the second time someone has said that to me today,” Rachel was starting to get a touch irritated. “Are people trying to tell me something? Do I need to start slapping on the anti-ageing creams?”
“Now, now, Rachel, my love, you're as gorgeous as ever. I'm just saying that there's a whole world of men out there to explore and you don't want all your gorgeousness to go to waste now do you?” Jen coaxed.
“I suppose not,” Rachel conceded.
“OK, I'll give you a week to get to know yourself and then we're going out dancing next weekend,” Jen said in her usual incorrigible manner. “Anyway, must dash, darling, another date lined up for this evening. So many men, so little time.”
Rachel poured herself a glass of red wine and sank into the soft leath
The bright spring sun streaming through the curtains woke Rachel earlier than usual. Please let it be Saturday morning, she willed, as she groggily reached across her bedside locker to check the time on the alarm clock. Nobody should be awake at this ungodly hour, she thought wearily, half past five on a Friday morning i.e. another work day loomed ahead. She contemplated calling in sick but would have felt like a raging alcoholic if she did.
She was still feeling the effects of the red wine from the night before. She'd managed to drink the entire bottle, and had tumbled into bed very tipsy. She was finding it difficult to keep her eyes open, and the glaring sun wasn't helping the hangover headache which was just starting.
I can't believe I have to drag myself out of bed and into work in this condition, she thought, as she rolled from under the covers to sit carefully at the edge of the bed. She surveyed her bedroom, with one eye open. Slowly, she opened both eyes and tentatively stood up. The room was spinning a little.
Note to self, no more drinking on a work night, she scolded herself as she made her way to the kitchen. Coffee, I need coffee, very strong and very hot.