Modern-day Cleopatra

He imagined her naked. He’d imagined it dozens of times but today was different, special. She’d chosen today, a brilliant summer’s day, to wear a near-see-through dress. David suspected she hadn’t realised the sheerness of it but when it caught the light he could see the pattern of her underwear; tiny flowers.

His mind drifted to an imaginary field, to poppies, puppies and Ella. He didn’t know her name but she looked like an Ella. Italian. She had to be with that long black hair.

As she added soap powder to her washing, she pulled a stray hair from her dress and David studied it as it fell to the ground – even that looked seductive.

She turned to the tumble dryer and started reading the instructions. David had seen her use it every time the two of them had been there together but she looked at it like a stranger. Like him.

He knew which machines she preferred but kept his distance. “One day,” he told himself but so far, that day hadn’t come.

David’s washing was nearly finished and he knew he’d then have no excuse to be there, to watch her, to imagine the two of them together, lying in the field of poppies, dogs by their feet as he fed her grapes like a modern-day Cleopatra. He was her Anthony and he’d do anything for her.

He was still staring at her when she turned and walked towards him.

As she closed in, his mouth went dry. He wanted to run, to hide, climb in one of the washing machines if he could but he sat, motionless, on the old padded seating.

“Hello,” she said in a soft European accent. “Can you help me please.”

David nodded but said nothing.

“I understand most but not all. There is one word I do not understand. It is c-y… c-l-e. Like bicycle, no?’

“Sort of. It just means it goes round and round.” David made a circular motion with his right index finger. “Like a bicycle wheel.”

“Ah, I see… You come here often.”

David laughed.

“I sorry. I make joke?”

“No. I’m sorry. Hi. I’m David,” he said, stretching out his right hand.

“Bella,” she said, shaking his hand and smiling. “It means…”

“Beautiful. Yes,” he said and looked down at his knees as a flush of red overtook his face.


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