A Scarlet Kiss

By: Heidi Lowe

ONE



As soon as I spotted the floral print case make its way through the chute and down the conveyor belt, I hurried forward and snatched it up as quickly as I could. As quickly as a 50 lb suitcase would allow someone of my slim build.

Waiting around for my case to show up had always made me anxious, ever since that one summer when, having touched down on home soil from a family vacation to Vancouver, we were informed that one of our cases had been left in Canada. Some kind of mix up. It just happened to be my case. It arrived first class the following day, but the scars were already firmly in place by then. After that, I couldn't leave the country without worrying if my clothes were stuck back in Massachusetts.

I sighed with relief as I lifted the handle bar and followed the signs for the drop off and pick up bay of London's Heathrow Airport – one of the busiest airports in the world. This evening, it had certainly lived up to its name. People rushed back and forth past me, brushing me, barging me, and kicking my case in their mad rush to get out of the airport.

The air was warm and inviting when I stepped out of the Terminal 5 exit. Surprisingly warm. Marcus had talked extensively about the weather in the UK, and I'd envisioned a snowy thunderstorm awaiting me on my first ever visit.

Marcus. Where the heck was he? I prayed he wouldn't keep me waiting all afternoon. Punctuality wasn't his strong suit.

Fighting back the urge to dig into my case for a cigarette, uncertain of how long I would have to wait for him, I looked up and saw a tall, shaggy-haired boy approaching. When he spotted me, he broke into a run. I followed suit.

"There she is," he said, flinging his arms around me and lifting me off the ground in the process.

I giggled as we kissed, like lovers reunited – he was the soldier coming home from war, and I, the doting wife. Well, not quite. But for a moment I allowed myself to fantasize.

"God, I've missed you," he said, finally setting me back on the ground.

"Silly, it's only been two weeks since we saw each other," I said, fixing my blouse, two of the buttons of which had come undone during our embrace.

"Yes, and that was long enough."

For some reason, perhaps because he was in his own territory, his English accent seemed far more pronounced. Well-spoken with great diction, that was Marcus Rutherford-Manning. He had the type of voice that I could listen to all day long and never tire of hearing. It was like a fetish of mine or something, how I insisted he read everything aloud to me, just so I could cream myself over his accent. Cereal boxes, junk pamphlets that dropped through the mailbox, everything!

I combed my fingers through his light-brown locks, noting how much his hair had grown in such a short space of time. The little patch of hair above his mouth was also new, and rather adorable, if not hilariously inadequate. The guy just couldn't grow a mustache or beard, no matter how hard he tried. Mature in everything but his facial hair. Which was fine by me, seeing as the rub of hair against my skin when we kissed was grating.

He took the case from me without asking, then took my hand in his spare one. "We're parked just over here."

"We're?" I said, startled. Had his parents accompanied him? Was I about to meet the family for the first time? I was totally unprepared, and desperately needed a shower. I'd thrown my dark brown hair into a loose and careless bun for the plane ride; I looked a mess!

He didn't say anything, just walked me through the parking lot until we got to a lush, black town car. It wasn't just the car that made my mouth drop open in astonishment, but the man standing beside it. A driver, dressed in a black suit and matching hat. He offered me a smile and a little bow, before opening the door for me.

"What's this?" I looked to Marcus for answers, a nervous smile on my lips. "You hired a private car for me? That's a bit excessive, don't you think?"

His cheeks flushed, and he exchanged looks with the driver. "Not exactly. Vivu has worked for my family for fifteen years..."

Worked for his family? I mouthed to myself as I stepped into the car. Vivu, the driver, loaded my case into the trunk while Marcus climbed in beside me. He pressed a button and a glass screen went up, separating passenger and driver. I watched him the whole time, thinking this whole thing was an elaborate joke. An expensive one, too.