The Forbidden Fruit Club
‘James would you like to kick off tonight’s session?’ Marcy smoothed a fallen strand of blonde hair behind her ear. Soft brown eyes rested hopefully on him.
‘What do I do?’
‘Just tell us about your experience and why you feel you need to be here with us tonight.’ She smiled and it was the best smile he had ever seen. He’d been married twenty six years and he loved his wife but he’d never been on the receiving end of a smile like that.
James clutched the community college leaflet between two worn hands. He glanced around at all the faces in the circle until his eyes settled on Marcy. He was ready. ‘I first encountered Lynne…’
‘Please James. Outside the group we try not to use names, real or made up. I’m sorry I should have explained.’
James nodded. ‘The first time I saw her was in a picture her husband had given me.’ He addressed the group now, with occasional glances to Marcy just for a reassuring smile. ‘I’m a private investigator and Mr…her husband had suspected her of having an affair.’ James felt himself settling back into his chair. He released his grip on the leaflet.
‘Go on James. Doing great,’ Marcy said leaning forward, willing him to speak.
James caught a whiff of her perfume and imagined what it would be like to hold her on a crowded dance floor. He shook the thought from his mind. ‘Well it was that picture of his wife. I fell for her straight away. It was one of those pictures where you could convince yourself she was looking at you and you alone. Almost like she could reach out and touch you. Oh but that picture.
‘Her skin was pure white, not a blemish. You could hardly pick out any features except for her wild blue eyes, piercing and so pronounced against her porcelain skin. Her nose was small and hidden by a wonderful trick of the light that made her somehow shine. The camera certainly did love her and I knew the more I continued with this case I would too.’ James looked around at the faces and laughed. ‘I know. Sounds daft.’
‘Not daft at all James,’ Marcy said. ‘Everyone here has a similar story. That’s why we started the group.’
‘I built up quite a file for her,’ he continued. ‘Followed her wherever she went and got some good pictures too; mostly coffee houses and shopping trips with sister and girlfriends, usual stuff. For the times I wasn’t following her I had her picture with me always. I used to imagine what it would be like to touch her hair and have it cascade through my fingers, to smell her perfume after she would dab it along her smooth neck.’ He looked around the group and nodded. ‘I know how creepy this sounds and that’s one of the reasons I’m here. I need help. That’s for sure.’
Marcy reached over and stroked his arm. ‘And that’s why we’re here, to give you all the help you need,’ she said. Another smile.
James’s breath caught in his chest at Marcy’s touch. He watched her as she looked around the group for the next volunteer. Traces of her smile were etched in his mind and a sudden surge of excitement swirled in his stomach.
His eyes lingered on Marcy, noticing the way she pressed her hands together almost in prayer, bringing her fingertips to her lips. James could see she was getting ready to move the group on and he hated that. One more smile for him. That’s all he wanted.
‘Martin. Do you want to go next?’
A tall thin man who was folded into an inadequate chair in the circle had raised his hand. ‘I wondered if I could ask James a question,’ he said with a shaky voice.
James nodded, pleased with the continued attention from Marcy.
‘Was the lady having an affair?’
James smiled. ‘I don’t know. I stopped my association with my client.’
‘Why?’ Martin asked.
‘I love my wife and we have two wonderful children and I didn’t want to risk losing that.’ James looked at Marcy. ‘The scary thing is I know I’m not out of the woods yet. I could have thrown my life down the toilet if I’d have continued with this case.’ His eyes dropped to the leaflet still in his hands. ‘She got to me. That’s what her husband said to me when I turned up at their house with the box of files I’d compiled. He knew. When I couldn’t give him a straight answer as to why I was getting out he simply said, “She got to you”’.
There was a moment of silence that lasted beyond comfortable. James broke it. ‘That’s not all of it,’ he said. ‘I couldn’t stand knowing she was having an affair. It would be like it was happening to me. Yes she got to me alright.’
James let out a long breath as though a pillow had been lifted from his face. He continued to watch Marcy as she turned to the group to move it on. She spoke to someone else in the circle but James didn’t see who, he didn’t even hear what was said. He felt the swirling in his stomach return and a light headedness, more relief from the suffocation he’d felt from the woman in the picture; but he wasn’t thinking of the woman in the picture anymore. She didn’t seem important.
Marcy flicked her blond hair away from her eyes.
With creeping horror James realised, as he studied the curve Marcy’s leg took as she sat on her chair, that his problem was deeper than he imagined.
He uncurled the leaflet in his hands and turning to the woman sitting next to him he quietly asked for a pen.
He traced the pen down the list of classes on the leaflet, scratching a line through the “Forbidden Fruits” class and circled the one underneath that read “Obsessive Compulsive Disorders”.
Returning the pen he noticed the woman for the first time and the smile she gave him.
He would have sworn it was the best smile he’d ever seen.
©Paul Frith 2012
Thanks for Reading.