He stepped outside on the balcony. She was leaning against the railing, holding a cigarette in her right hand. She looked like one of those actresses of the golden era of hollywood: Tied back hair, red lipstick, immersed in thougt,self-aware. He had never seen her smoking before – they had talked about it. It was the first question she asked him „do you smoke?“ and without waiting for an answer, she proceeded: „I just do it to calm me down“ and than she had laughed her adorable, open smile, the one that melts hearts.
They went for a stroll this morning, in the national garden, which was filled with chatting people, loud birds and scents of the hundreds of plants inside it. After that, she had invited him to her family for dinner – like she usually did, when they had been visiting the city. And as usual, he accepted the invitation. He liked her family. He liked them pretty much. They were a typical southern family – loud, and chaotic, and kind-hearted. They welcomed him with open arms and took him in as one of theirs. And as a guest he wasn’t allowed to do anything. He just had to enjoy himself, while he awkwardly sat at the table, while they prepared and served the dinner.He was watching the housekeeper, Nana, as she cooked dinner and played and then got bitten by one of the cats (they had a bunch oft hem at home, stray cats, originally, who just never wanted to leave). He took every little detail in, the kitchen in seventies-style, so adorable and charming, the faded, badly-photograped pictures of the family members at the wall, the smells, the humming mother and her, how she tried to help with this and that and how she got scolded for doing everything wrong and her adorable, apologizing smile.
And as always, there was plenty of food – food for a whole army. Soup, as a starter, several main dishes, so if he didn’t liked anyone that he could try another, and if he liked anyone he got served a second and third portion without asking, side dishes. They put olive oil and lemon and salt on everything for him, they just did it because they knew it would taste the best like this. Fruits, as a desert. Oranges and mandarins. Not just one (because that wouldn’t be enough) but six or five and cake as well. Two cakes, just to try. And home-made cookies. He was always suprised that he could move himself after one of those meals. But it was delicous and he would have missed something, if the dinners wouldn’t be going like this at her family.
But now she was standing outside, smoking. He stepped to her, looking over the railing at the other houses. It was nearly dark now but over there, still, he could see the sea. „Why are you smoking?“ He asked her, honestly interested.
„To calm me down“, she said, without looking at him.
He nodded. The night was falling down but it was still warm. They could see the neighbours from here, they were still eating dinner. He felt like this was the right moment. „Well, I wanted to tell you something“-
„Callum.“ She just said his name, nothing else, but he knew how she meant it „stop“.
„I know“, she took a breath, „I already know.“
He looked at the sea. „Okay.“ He felt nothing. He was glad about that. „I just thought it would change something, if I say it.“
Her eyes were fixed at the horizon. „Why would it change something? Do you really think it would change anything, when you say it aloud?“
„Maybe not for you. But for me, why, I guess it would.“
She offered him her cigarette. He took it; took a deep breath. He never smoked. But it calmed him down. Made his feeling silent. She was watching him, he held himself under controll, she liked him, more than ever in this moment.
“I am glad that I have you”, she said, smiling while she was looking over the railing again.
He passed her cigarette back to her. “I’m glad, too.” He meant it.
And they were looking at the night falling, turning the houses in front of them in a sea of lights.