Amanda Tilney loves her sedate life among her books, and all is well until Simon Harris walks in. His love transforms her life, and her love is passionate in a way she never thought possible.
Simon wants her, and his love is demanding. She feels his power on her own body, and is torn between her love, her fear, and something other that is awakening inside. How can something so humiliating be so desirable?
He made me feel like a princess. Which really means that he made me feel far more glamorous than I was. He made me believe I had it in me to be more glamorous than I was.
That sense, that sense of being a princess, a very glamorous princess, was just the side effect of him, what he made me feel. He made me feel special, special and loved. Despite everything that should have made me doubt him, doubt the reality that faced me, he made me feel attractive and sexy. He loved me. And I loved to be loved by him.
I was completely lost to him. I was smitten. I was helplessly in love with him. I didn?t deserve him, he was out of my league, but I loved him, with the stubborn right of a woman in love.
I was standing behind the desk in my library when he first came in and changed my life. It sounds very melodramatic, but that was what happened. Not instantly, not like snapping your fingers, but from the moment he walked into my library, things changed. I changed.
He was tall, and dressed in a grey suit, white shirt, and red tie. He moved with the confidence of a man who knew he had the right to be content. There was a slight air of arrogance around him, the kind you are not sure will annoy you to death, or you will forget when you get to know him.
I had no thoughts of getting to know him. He impressed me; he was unlike anyone who entered my library. First and foremost, he was a man. Not many men came in, and those who came were ordinary, nice but ordinary. This man was not like that.
With him was a woman, dressed in a tight black dress, and a jacket over her arm. She was blond and had sunglasses. Inside the door she stopped, leaned on the man, and adjusted a strap on her high heel sandal.
They were a striking couple, like something from a film. They were real, though, and they came in through the door. I had no choice but to follow them with my gaze, as they stood for a while, looked around, and then noticed the desk, the desk where I stood.
It was only natural that they would approach me, yet I was terrified. I felt intimidated by their presence, by their sheer elegance and style.
Then he smiled. That smile changed everything. I could forgive him his assumed arrogance, his impeccable dress sense, and even his glamorous company, because of that smile. Suddenly I was part of his world.
He told me that the woman, whose name I didn?t get, had implored him to read Heart of Darkness. He explained that she thought it a great white spot in his education not having read it. I nodded in consent, and showed him the shelf where it was.
I acted in a kind of haze, as I helped him fill out the form for the library card. He thanked me, took the book and left. Before leaving, he fired off his smile, again, that smile that made me feel as if he saw me, as if I existed in the same world as him.
I was shaken and upset when he had left. He had been so strikingly, terrifyingly handsome, and in the company of a dazzling young woman. I hated her. She had done nothing to earn my hate. She had smiled at me, a friendly smile – the kind of smile that came from knowing you were more glamorous and more successful, but that you had no need to impose it on others. It was, in truth, a friendly smile, but I hated her.
I hated her because that smile made me feel frumpy, and ugly, and terribly unglamorous. I was a librarian. I was 21, but I lived among books. Wearing a red scarf was daring, and although I tried to dress a little modern, I found myself standing there, behind the desk, in tweed, or brown, all too often.
I hated her because she was together with that man, that strange and overwhelmingly beautiful man, that man who seemed to be man through and through, not in any sweaty, hairy and brutal kind of way, but in an elegant, stylish, yet determined kind of way.
I wondered who he was, what he was, what he was doing in my library? Who was she? Where they engaged, or even married?
His name was Simon Harris. I knew because I had helped him fill out the form. I knew that he was Doctor Simon Harris, although I didn?t know what kind of doctor he was. I knew he lived in a street where the houses were tall, and the flats expensive. He was, without doubt, a wealthy man.
I was stricken, but I was also a sensible woman. I had no illusions, and I wasn?t prone to pointless romantic longings. I was fascinated, but I had no thoughts, whatsoever, that this would be more than an event in my life, something I would, perhaps, think of during years to come.
All this changed when he came back, a week later. This time he was alone. His tie was dark blue, and the suit a shade lighter, still grey, though.
?What did you think?? I asked, surprised that I had dared to address him.
?Oh, the book,? he said, ?it was very good, kind of mysterious.?
?Quite unusual,? I tried.
?I know there is a lot written and said about it, and I don?t know half of it, but I can understand why.?
?Why is it then??
?So many layers of meaning, hard to explain…?
?Sorry, I didn?t mean to…?
?Do you take lunch breaks??
?It?s one o?clock, and a great many people have their lunch now. Do you take lunch??
?Yes, I do.?
?Now-ish, in ten minutes.?
?If you don?t mind. We could go and have a sandwich, and I?ll tell you about my impressions of Heart of Darkness.?
He smiled his smile. I decided to disregard my lunch-box and go with this man for lunch. There was nothing that would have made me think otherwise, not when that smile was shining.
It was a warm day, so I wasn?t in tweed, but my skirt was black, and my top was a demure red. There was nothing glamorous about me. Where would we go, where wouldn?t we clash against each other?
He took me to one of those modern coffee bars, where it wasn?t that obvious that either of us didn?t fit in. He insisted on buying me tea and a sandwich.
He did talk about Heart of Darkness. He told me about what he thought it was about, how the journey up the mysterious river was a journey into the mind. But he also said that this was not very clever, since Conrad himself, actually explains this, in the book.
Our conversation moved on to other things. And despite my sense of being too frumpy, too ordinary, he made me feel comfortable, and I launched into a long rant about my books, my favourite authors, what they did to me, and how wonderful I thought it was reading them.
During that hour, in the coffee bar, across the table, two worlds clashed, but he created a bridge between them. He made me feel at home. He made me feel listened to, made me forget how boring and ordinary I was. He nullified the gap between us, and made me, for a short moment, believe we lived in the same world.
Afterwards I tried to be rational about it, used all my logical thinking, my ability to analyse, but there was no denying it. I was helplessly in love with him. I was aware that this kind of man might well be able to make me feel this way, only fooling me, making a na?ve woman like me believe she was someone, while he was cold as stone inside.
But why would he do that? I had nothing that would attract him. I was nothing compared to him.
He was a scientist. I hadn?t expected that. He was one of those who hurried between laboratories all over the world, doing strange and abstract research, the kind of research that needed big expensive machines.
I had thought that that kind of scientists would be bespectacled grey men, in white coats, hunched over tables and calculators, if they weren?t staring at computer screens with strange images of traces of subatomic particles.
He was very different. He looked like a businessman, or a successful artist, or actor. It was hard to imagine him locked away beside a humming accelerator, deep underground, or standing in front of the audience at a conference, explaining some anomaly in the behaviour of quarks.
What was even more extraordinary about him was that he came back. The next time he didn?t even have an excuse. He just told me he wanted lunch with me. I forgot about my lunch-box, yet again, and had lunch with him.
He told me he wanted lunch. He didn?t ask me, nor did he tell me we would have lunch. He just told me he wanted lunch with me.
It happened again, and yet again, and when he asked me out for dinner, I was amazed. A rational part of me told me he wanted dinner with me because he liked being with me, that he maybe even was interested in me. That was what it would seem like. Still I couldn?t believe it. I couldn?t accept the thought that he saw something in me. Why would he do that? I had little to recommend myself.
I told myself he was just being kind, or just found me amusing, or interesting to talk to. Yet, I fretted for days about what to wear. I wanted to look nice, not as if I was dressing up to impress him. How could I possibly impress him? And besides, for all I knew, he was together with the glamorous blond woman.
In the end I got myself a red sleeveless linen dress that was modest, yet nice. I took sandals, with a bit of heel, even if it made me almost keel over.
I fully expected him to start laughing at me, laughing at my pathetic attempts to look nice. He didn?t. Instead he looked at me, and smiled. It was an inclusive, warm smile, and for a moment my heart fluttered in my breast.
It was painful to have dinner with him. I was helplessly in love with him, but didn?t think he wanted anything but friendship. My heart was aching, although I cherished every moment with him. I was determined to make the most of the time I had with him, and save the memories to my lonely life that would follow.
The way he looked at me, across the table, was devastating. I melted. I was smitten. I was helpless. I stared at his eyes, his lips as he spoke. I had to tell myself not to stare, not to behave like a love-stricken teenager. I even imagined that there was something happening between us. I loved that thought, the illusion that he was falling for me, that he actually enjoyed being with me, as much as I enjoyed being with him.
When he kissed me, all the calm I had so desperately tried to hold on to was shattered. It happened at the end of our date, our dinner, when we had stopped outside my flat, and was about to go our separate ways.
My whole being cried out for him. I wanted to ask him to come with me to my flat. I wanted to offer him, tea, or coffee, or wine, or spirits. I wanted to offer him my body, my soul, and me.
I did nothing of it. The thought that he would have wanted it was so completely alien that I couldn?t make myself ask him. He didn?t ask me either, and that sealed it.
Yet the kiss had been delicious. It hadn?t been a fleeting kiss, a friendly kiss on the lips. Neither was it a passionate kiss, but it was a kiss that lasted a fraction longer than I had expected, or could have hoped for. Not that I had expected to be kissed at all, but when it happened, I was puzzled.
It meant a lot to me, and the way he did it, the way he gently, but determinedly kissed me, and lingered for a moment, made me believe, against all rational thinking, that it meant something to him too.
The next day, I talked to my friend, and colleague, Diana. She was in her thirties, and the one in the library with a little bit of dress sense. She wasn?t glamorous, or stylish, but she looked nice, often in black dresses, and elegant shoes.
I told her about Simon, what had happened, how he had kissed me. I told her about how impossible the thought of loving him was, how unbelievable it was that he would even take his time to be with me.
?Go for it,? was her assessment, ?you?re such a stupid woman, Amanda. A gorgeous man comes into the library, asks you out, and kisses you, and you don?t think there is something going on. If you don?t want him, hand him over to me.?
?Do you think he means something with it??
?Of course he means something. Maybe he?s a player, but go for it, anyway. You?ll have a great time as long as it lasts.?
?Why would he want to be with someone like me, I mean, if he?s just after…you know…??
?Because you?re a gorgeous little thing, and you do your best to hide it.?
?Don?t be daft.?
?Run with it, Amanda, keep your head calm, but run with it. If it is for fun, have fun, if it is serious, then go for it. If that?s what you want.?
It was very easy for Diana. She was confident. She knew she was attractive. In her own way, she was attractive. Not like the blond woman together with Simon, the very first day, but yet attractive.
Talking to Diana didn?t calm me. Instead I thought I had blown it, that I had, finally, scared Simon away.
I didn?t see or hear of him for some days, and I was convinced he was gone forever. When he finally phoned me, I was relieved to hear his voice. I could hardly hear it because of the banging of my heart.
He wondered if I would care to go to the theatre with him. I said yes, a little too quickly, a little too eagerly.
This time I wore a green satin dress, still quite modest, but a little bit more elegant than the last time. I felt bold and daring, trying to trust myself, trying to believe I might have something that was interesting to him. I didn?t believe it was true, but I pretended I believed it.
Despite his smile, despite his willingness to listen to me, despite his attention, and sweetness, I believed he only wanted friendship. I was desperate, wanted to explain to him, wanted to finally tell him what he meant to me, desperate to make a fool of myself, terrified he would turn and run, yet wanting to come clean.
We had dinner, and then went to the theatre. It was Beckett, and he looked as if he enjoyed it. I should have enjoyed it. I was a great fan of Beckett?s, but I could not think, nor react, being preoccupied by Simon.
In the dark night, outside the theatre, I asked him to kiss me. I couldn?t take it any longer.
?Kiss me,? I said.
For a moment my heart stood still. I expected him to start laughing. He didn?t, instead he kissed me. This time his lips lingered.
When he broke off the kiss, he smiled at me. Then he kissed me again. This time was more demanding. I yielded. I surrendered to his kiss. His tongue felt my tongue, and my body was traversed by something that felt like an electric current.
?What do you want to do now?? he asked.
?I don?t care, I?ll go with you anywhere.?
?I live round the corner.?
?I don?t care if you will laugh at me in the morning, I?ll come with you to your place, or hell, if you ask me, right now.?
We walked to his flat. In the lift, I stood trembling. He held his arm around me. I was terrified, yet, happy. I thought of Diana?s words about running with it. I thought I should, and leave tomorrow for tomorrow, hoping it wouldn?t hurt too much.
Inside his door, he wasted no time. He kissed me. I slung my arms around his neck, and kissed him back. His hands moved across my back, down to grab my buttocks, then up over my shoulders.
I felt his hand unzip my dress at the back, and how his hand found their way across my naked skin on my back.
?Oh, no bra,? he said, as he let his hand slide across by back.
?I need no bra, I?m not that well equipped.?
The dress I had chosen had the kind of top that allowed me to skip the bra. I hadn?t thought much about it; only that it was so much more comfortable. Now it had taken on a new and intense meaning.
?I?ll have to inspect,? he growled, and caressed my dress down my shoulders, down my body. He stared at my breasts as they came free.
?They are of absolutely the right size, round and proud, standing by themselves. Let me kiss them.?
He kissed my breasts. I felt his lips against my hard nipples. I felt his teeth against them too, as he bit me, just a little.
I had never thought my tiny bosom could be of interest for a man like him. The way he kissed and licked them, made me believe they were something precious.
He continued caressing my dress down my body, while he sank to his knees, kissing my skin. He let his tongue lick my navel, and when my dress, finally fell to the floor, he took hold of my knickers with his teeth and continued down.
When I finally was naked, he stood up. He stood tall in front of me. He took me in his arms, pressed me to his chest. I felt his hard body through his clothes, felt my very naked skin touch his clothes. I felt naked, gloriously, and helplessly naked in his embrace.
He took me by the hand, and led me into his flat. He led me through the grand living room, with the luxurious sofa and armchairs, with the bookshelves, and oak table. He took me up the few steps to the bedroom, the very Spartan but elegant bedroom. He laid me down on the bed, and stood back, regarding me.
?How sweet you are,? he said.
I wasn?t sure if I wanted to be sweet, but the way he said it, seemed to indicate that sweetness wasn?t just innocent, that it meant something more to him.
He lowered himself on top of me, kissed me again, withdrew, and made me lift my head for him. He teased me by kissing my body, my breasts, and my belly, my thighs and my knees, only to return to my lips.
He kept his clothes on, making me feel exposed, and vulnerable. Yet I felt blessed. I slung my arms around his neck, to pull him down to me. I wrapped my legs around him, to come closer to him. I pressed my nakedness against his clothes, against his hard body.
Then he decided it was time. He rose and unbuttoned his shirt. He pulled it off, and then unbuttoned his trousers. He doffed his clothes, while I lay there watching him reveal his beauty, his soft skin over hard muscles, his maddening combination of glowing soft, and unyielding hard.
When he lowered himself on top of me, in his glorious nudity, I was ready for him. He slipped into me with little effort, and I gasped as I felt him fill me up. I sighed as I felt him move inside me, how his hardness touched me there, where I was most sensitive, where I was most soft.
He kissed me; he nibbled my lips, and caressed my breasts, as he moved inside me. Soon there was no return, no way of stopping it. I whimpered as I came, only to feel him come soon after.
I lay close to him, moulding myself to his body, relaxed, blessed, and exhausted. I had never thought something like this could ever happen to me, to the librarian I was. I couldn?t simply believe it.
?Do you want me to leave?? I whispered in his ear.
?Why?? he said, ?why would you leave??
?It?s over now, we have done it. And perhaps your friend is coming.?
?The blond woman. She was with you in the library.?
?Tanya?? He laughed. ?Don?t think of her, she?s just a friend.?
?She doesn?t want to find me here.?
?What makes you think she would come here, and find you here, and have opinions about it??
?You seemed very close.?
?Are you jealous??
?Believe me, Simon, I am not jealous. I just know my place, what I am.?
?What are you then??
?A boring librarian, being blessed by you.?
He rose to his arms, looked me in the face.
?Stop that. You insult me. Why would you think I would be with a boring librarian??
?Because you have just done that.?
?I have been with you, Amanda. I have just spent a very great moment with you, Amanda Tilney. And I have no intentions of turning you away. Tell me you will stay.?
?Do you want me to??
?I very much want you to.?
?I didn?t think you were stupid.?
?I?m not stupid.?
?There you go.?
That?s how it started, my love for Simon Harris, the bliss of being loved by Simon Harris. I was still full of disbelief, but the signs spoke another language. He obviously saw something in me. And when he spoke to me, like that, I believed it. I felt blessed.