Pierre Fermier.  Photo: Contributed

Pierre Fermier has been intensely involved with ‘Gladstone Area Writer’s Group’ with the help of which he has produced numerous short stories.

He is momentarily returning to his ancestors’ hunting grounds, in search for inspiration and time to focus on artistic creation.

The Worst Kiss

I leaned towards her and I stopped breathing.

I had waited for this moment for so long… my heart seemed to be about to burst. From the first time I had seen her, lost, despaired and injured, I had wanted to help her, to hold her… to kiss her.

I had found her wandering on the edge of the desert after a terrible sandstorm, alone. She did not know how long she had ended there.  She did not remember where she had come from or how. She did not even know why she was there.

Her memory had been erased it seemed, and she was bruised and covered with scratches. A particularly concerning lump swelled at the base of her skull, near her ear. Clearly she had been in an accident. Yet we could not find the trace of any vehicle, we presumed her mean of locomotion had been buried by the moving sand dunes; one does not come that far in the desert by foot.

I tried to help her and succumbed to her charms from day one. Her black hair had a blueish tinge I found radiant; her disarming smile had me under total submission. Surely, there was a husband, a friend, some family waiting for her somewhere, here in Egypt, or overseas. There had to be a place she had come from, people who looking for her since she had not returned.

All she knew was her name, Mila, and we convinced ourselves it was a promising start.

The police could not help; she did not have any identity papers no passport. They had enough time to spend on missing persons; they did not want to be bothered with the ‘found’ ones.

She healed in my company. I cared for her like a lover and I became convinced that our attraction was mutual. This, until the moment I finally moved towards that cherished face for a first kiss. I was confident she too, wanted me; loved me.

She insisted on wearing the suit of strong leathery material I had found her in. It moulded her body and resembled a motorcycle or a formula one pilot outfit. It was white with green stripes across the shoulder and arms. Unfortunately, it was unmarked. It bore no brand, no sponsor to give us any clue about her origins.

She would not take her damn suit off; I was sure that it was because this outfit was the only item which was actually hers. Nevertheless, I convinced her to wear an Egyptian sebleh on top of it to blend more easily among the locals.

I lodged her, in a room next to my flat, and through the boarding house, I could see the stares of men, mostly Europeans, in turn startled, lustful or besotted as she walked past them. Yet she was never provocative and never realised the turmoil she was causing, or how many husbands she had got in trouble for staring to long in her direction.

As our lips neared I could sense the warmth from her face and the gentle caress of her long hair reaching for me. They provided a cool shelter, like an oasis in the scorching landscape. The world surrounding us- the lounge of my apartment, seemed to shrink and unite with our bodies. We touched and a wave of arousing electricity tingled through my whole self. I wrapped my arms around her and held her tight.

But my gesture was not even finished when I was overcome by the vilest taste I had ever had in my mouth. My tongue stung; a hellish stench seemed to drill through my nose to my brain.

I pulled back. She too bore disgust on her face. Despite all efforts to remain civilised, I could not help but turn around and throw up on the tiles. My stomach was upended and wringing from the inside. Pain and revulsion shook my body for what seemed an eternity. Embarrassment also, as I felt responsible for what seemed an attempt at poisoning both of us.

It took quite some time for me to recover, to regain the awareness of my surroundings and gather the strength to worry about my would-be lover. I stopped panting and realised she had suffered a similar fate.

Ashamed, we cleaned the floor in silence, dry retching as we collected the dejections from our own bodies. How did something so foul lodged itself into our mouth right at the precious moment we kissed, I wondered?

We scrubbed the tiles until we had erased the foul smells and replaced them with those of an over powering bleach to cover our memories of this disastrous instant. There was nothing left to do, we now had to face each other and move on.

‘You…’ she hesitated, ‘you stink,’ she said between laughter and tears.

‘You too! Oh, I am so sorry’ I replied; a little charmed, a little hurt. I moved forward to hug her. She let me do so reluctantly. I could not blame her, I was forcing myself after all. Our faces neared each other and, willingly or not, we breathed into each other’s face.

The sewage-worth stench was still there, intrinsically embodied in the one we loved.

We were angry; both of us. Angry at ourselves, angry at the world and also somehow at each other. We had fallen victim to our naïve nature, desiring something which was physically impossible.

Had we been fooled by one-another somehow?

To her I stank; to me she was disgusting.

Yet, looking at her, desire was growing again. I felt love for her and I longed for her body…. Surely, a terrible accident must have happened.

‘We must try again,’ I said shyly.

‘Later,’ she replied like an annoyed mother sends away her persisting child.

We needed fresh air and went out, unwilling to return to the pension, we ended up wandering through to the souk. We were wasting time, pretending to be interested in the stalls. I remained a few steps ahead of Mila.

I caught her forced smile when a merchant attempted to coerce her into buying his craft. He did not insist, strong negative energy was clearly emanating from us.

Despite the stomach wringing experience I had just been through, I stopped in front of a stall where spices and strange food items were spread out. I inhaled the enticing scents pondering on unfairness. Why didn’t my lover could not smell like that?

‘Mila!’ the stall keeper called out.

Both my friend and I suddenly woke from our reverie. She rapidly elbowed her way to the ‘shop’ and stood near me, amazed and hopeful, hypnotised by the grinning shopkeeper.

Finally a clue to her past, someone who knows her, I thought relieved, despite feeling a pinch at the idea of possibly losing her.

‘You know me?’ she asked briskly.

‘No offense intended,’ the man recoiled at her blunt tone. He looked suspiciously at her again, observing her silhouette which the sun was revealing through the slightly see-through sebleh.

‘I simply thought you might enjoy a little Takimatar.’ He winked at her and handed out a rectangle of nougat-like paste, as big as his own knuckle.

Mila grabbed it, slowly, carefully, observing the merchant with unease. He gestured for her to eat the stuff while in the other hand he gave me a piece as well, without a glance. Weary of tastes that morning, I slowly put the delicacy to my mouth, glaring at the man whose grin was getting wider as he waited expectantly for Mila’s reaction.

‘Liquorice?’ I asked.

‘Yeah right,’ he chuckled, returning his full attention to my friend.

My tongue seemed to explode at the contact of the candy, acid flavours blended with sweet ones, while a citrus perfume overwhelmed me. It was complex like a French wine, I could taste cinnamon and oak, some leather and lime while I felt refreshed.

‘Feels like home, doesn’t it?’ the man told Mila.

She nodded, closed eyed, absorbed, as if in a trance. Looking for herself I thought.

Puzzled, I asked the merchant what it was.

‘Takimatar,’ he replied like the teacher tells for the thousandth time to the kid who has not been listening. His whole attention was devoted to Mila as if observing a monkey in a zoo. Yes, I felt jealous; and left out.

She seemed radiant when her bright green eyes opened again.

‘Ha ha!’ the man said gingerly, ‘I knew it; that one was on me. I recognised you by the colour of your hair.’

‘You know Mila?’ I asked still shocked.

He stopped smiling and we could see that he was taken aback and wondering what he should say. Slowly he looked from one of our expectant face to the other.

‘You’re not kidding, right?’ he said. Our silence only expressed our incomprehension. He looked at Mila, trying to discover the hint of a smile, as if she had played a trick on him.

‘What’s your name?’ he asked, placing his face in front of hers.

‘Mila,’ we both replied at once.

‘Not your rank, your name,’ the man insisted.

In view of our mystified silence he changed his question.

‘Where do you come from?’

‘France,’ I replied, stating the obvious. I knew my accent was a giveaway.

‘Not you,’ the merchant waved me off, becoming annoyed with my interferences, ‘The mila over here; where did you land your space ship?’ he asked without the hint of a smile.

‘Listen,’ I said, ‘your joke is not amusing, the fact she’s lost her memory is not a subject to make fun of. You seem to know her, or know of her, please tell us it up and help the poor woman finally recover her life.’

‘The poor woman!’ he repeated as if it had been the punch line of a gag. He burst out laughing; loud and embarrassingly.

I grabbed Mila by the elbow and turned away, ready to disappear in the crowd.

‘Fine, have a good laugh, my girlfriend and I are leaving.’  We stepped away. Mila was just as frustrated as I was; but not willing to endure the teasing from a man who was obviously no stranger to her.

‘Your girlfriend!’ he could hardly speak and seemed to have trouble breathing between his chucles.

‘Hang on’ he cried amid tears, ‘How can you not know?’ he was slowly recovering from his attack of hysterics; clearly forcing himself to seriousness. ‘Come back,’ he called out, ‘I’ve got something to tell you’.

We stood again in front of him as he wiped tears from his eyes. This was taking forever, I felt like reaching across and strangling him.

‘What do you know?’ an angry Mila urged in a booming voice.

This seemed to calm him down and he put on a serene face. He spoke to me this time,

‘You realise that your… girlfriend’ he chuckled on the word, ‘is a Xenian, right?’

Our blank faces must have given him a sufficiently clear answer, in turn, he, was amazed.

Before he could go further, I repeated,

‘She was in an accident; suffers from a total loss of memory. We have tried to find traces of her past, why and how she was in the desert on her own. We never found anyone who knew her; you are the only one with the hint of a clue, and we bloody well wish you’d stop making fun of us and tell us what you know.’

He hesitated, still doubting our story, I thought. Our appealing glare must have convinced him.

He nodded, weighing improbabilities.

‘That’d make sense, I guess.’ He rested both hands on his stall to get closer for the revelations.

‘Mila is not a name… it’s a rank. Rare are those who travel enough nowadays to know those things. But merchants are travellers by nature. We go around. We talk to people.’

We still had no clue where this was heading, and I think he was slowly accepting the idea of our ignorance.

“Mila” means “pilot”. Your friend here is a pilot, even wearing a space-suit under the sebleh.’

It was my turn to chuckle: we had come across a lunatic; this was turning out to be a waste of a day.

I could not resist but mock him,

‘A space-suit, hey! Next, you’re going to tell us that she is…’

‘…an alien,’ he completed shamelessly, ‘of course your friend is,’ he started sniggering again, ‘from Xenia 586; it’s an exoplanet spinning around Mirach…’ he paused, expecting a reaction which never came. ‘Andromeda constellation? Below Pegasus? Mirach is about 197 light years away? You did lose your memory, poor buddy.’ He told Mila, ‘I hope the Takimatar helps you recover. Do you want some more?’

As he handed out his candy to my friend, I asked:

‘Is that a ploy to sell your lollies? Pretty lame, I must confess.’

The man seemed suddenly upset by my distrust,

‘You don’t believe it do you? It does not match the comfort of your little world. You have not been told at school, hey? Well, my friend wake up, the world is not what it seems. And that’s probably good.’ Seeing that his ire was doing nothing towards convincing me, the man justified himself.

‘I went there twice as a guest. How do you think I can source such a rare delicacy as Takimatar? Why do you think your friend likes it so much? Why do you think I knew to offer what is not on offer, I recognised your friend as a mila straightaway; didn’t I call out?’

He thought for a while and added, ‘You said she was ‘your girlfriend’… but did you actually kiss?’

Instead of answering I blushed,

‘You did, didn’t you?’ he sniggered again, ‘They say it’s disgusting. Those who tried say it made them throw up; the Earthling and the Xenian.  It’s not uncommon, you know, you’re not the first to make the mistake; neither is… the mila over-there.’

He continued in a more friendly tone, ‘They have charming personalities, soft voices, beautiful eyes to our standard …But total physical incompatibility despite a strong mutual attraction. And you haven’t seen everything yet; obviously.’ He paused to let his words sink in, ‘but in a nutshell, you are technically homosexuals, your mila here, is a male.’

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