Friday, 3 April 2009

Romantic interest 5


OK, so our couple have had a kiss and a cuddle. But it is not necessarily a close relationship yet. Gareth now forces himself to make a commitment - to trust Rhian and share his past with her, as well as sharing the real reason he has come back.

Then Rhian pushed herself away.

"Why are you back, Gaz?" she asked, staring into my eyes.

"I don't think my folks died of heart attack and stroke," I said flatly. "While I was killing total strangers in Guatemala, someone here in Brynddu was killing my parents.

"I want to know why, and I want to know how, and I want to know who. When I find out, I'm going to make them pay."

She stared at me in bewilderment, like someone who calls out to a friend only to find they are talking to a total stranger.

"How would you know your Mam and Dad didn't die naturally?" she asked. "You're just a squaddy, aren't you?" She pressed her hand against my chest, partly for contact, partly to keep me at arm's length. "Aren't you?"

I felt an unfamiliar sensation; anxiety.

"Rhian, if I tell you what I am, what I've done, I'm afraid you won't like me anymore. That would hurt."

I gazed at the floor, dreading her next words. I felt a flood of relief and shame as she stroked my cheek.

"Look at me Gaz," she said. "You've always been my friend; a good friend. Even when we were little, and it wasn't done to be friends with girls, you were my friend. You're a nice man. Anything you've done, I'm sure you did it for a good reason. I trust you."

It was her turn to tilt my head. She kissed me on the lips, slowly, gently, lingeringly.

"You don't have to tell me anything about the past if you don't want to," she whispered, her breath tickling my face. I put my arms around her waist, pulling her close again.

"But I do want to," I said. "I've wanted to be able to tell someone I can trust for years; to share the shit I've paddled through with someone who won't run to the News of the World or Special Branch." I paused, trying to choose the right words.

"I'm not going to be melodramatic and say that if I tell you, your life will be in danger. But I'm being truthful when I say that if I tell you, and you tell anyone else, my life will be in danger. So I'm trusting you now. Do you want to hear it? My past?"

She kissed the end of my nose.

"I want you to make me a promise first," she said. "From your heart; from your soul. I know you might do things that hurt me. I know you won't want to, but you may have to. But I want you to promise me that you'll never lie to me."

I held her hands and gazed into her eyes, deep blue, almost violet.

"I will never lie to you Rhian," I said. "I promise."

She pulled away, all briskness now.

"Right, let's get some more beers and you can begin."

I glanced at the mantel-clock. It was nearly eleven.

"It's getting rather late," I said doubtfully. "Would you like to leave it for another day? I expect you have work in the morning."

She shook her head.

"I don't want to wait. Do you?"

No, I didn't. I ached to be able to put my trust in someone, to confess and bare my soul to a friend, to Rhian. She was perhaps becoming more than a friend, but only time would reveal the weave of that tapestry.

"I think I need something stronger than beer for the stuff I'm going to tell you," I said, opening one of the wall cupboards and removing another bottle of JD.

I looked at Rhian. She nodded, so I poured us both a generous shot as she opened another couple of bottles of Hobgoblin.

She sat on the sofa, patting the cushion beside her.

"Come on then, tell me," she smiled. "And I don't believe that you're afraid. You've never been afraid."

I sat next to her. If only she knew, I thought. I'd been afraid, terrified, on more occasions than I could count.

She snuggled up to me, legs curled up on the cushions, an arm round my shoulders, gazing at me with trust and innocence in her eyes.

I began.

Gareth now shares some of his tormented past with Rhian.

"I was a squaddy, for 3 years," I said. "In Three Para. I moved from there to Special Forces, just in time for the Gulf War. The first one, you know, Desert Storm and the mother of all battles."

I briefly relived the hot, sandy, fly-infested hell that had been Iraq; outlining my part in it to Rhian.

It was hard, telling her of the seventeen years I had spent with the SAS. I had spent time in nearly every shithole in the world, doing various nasty things on behalf of an indifferent Government.

I told her of the fire fights; of the bombings, the sniping; of the friends I had made and lost in remote parts of the globe. I told her of the petty warlords and dictators I had helped overthrow, or prop up; sometimes both in successive months as Government policy changed. I told her of the squalid corruption I had encountered at every level - in our system as well as the foreign ones. I told her of the honourable people; of the betrayals and abandonments.

I told her of the dead who visited me in my dreams, the memories that tormented and goaded me through the day, of the way that certain sounds or smells dragged me back into the hell that had been my past.

When I had finished, Rhian was crying again, but she had also snuggled closer, empathising with me.

"No-one should have to bear all that suffering alone," she said. "Was there no-one who could help you? A counsellor or a psychologist?"

I laughed, but there was very little amusement in it.

"There was only one psychiatrist who had a high enough security clearance to be able to listen to me without breaking the Official Secrets Act," I said. "And he committed suicide a week before I was due to see him. He couldn't stand the sort of thing he had to listen to, I guess. Even second-hand it was too much for him to stand.

"Besides, if the Foreign Office, or MI5, or the SIS even thought that I was going to start revealing their dirty laundry, to anyone, I'd have ended up as just another traffic fatality."

Rhian hugged me tight, resting her head on my shoulder.

Then I told her of the endless training between missions. Of the Bachelor's degree in computer science I had gained in my spare time; of various Master's degrees in the same field. Of the security consulting I now did, mainly for Western Governments. Of the languages I had picked up while working undercover in South America, Iran, Afghanistan, Russia.

"Which is ironic really," I said, "because that was what caused the rift between my folks and me. They were dead set on me going into research, building in a career using my first degree. You know, settling down to a secure, respectable, professional career, getting a wife and two point four children, buying a house - all that conformist stuff.

"But I was too restless. I actually wanted to do something real, to see a bit of the world before I settled down. So I joined the Army. That was what we argued about, and because of it, I hadn't seen them in twenty years. Then it was too late.
I was in Central America removing a so-called terrorist leader when my folks died.

"I think they'd have been happy that I had made a career for myself eventually. I'm one of the most expensive security consultants in the world now. I even had Linda and children. Then I was sent off to Afghanistan again to remove some minor warlord. And my family died."

I sighed.

"It's almost like it's a pattern, don't you think?" I asked bitterly. "I get sent somewhere to kill some asshole, and as a balance, someone close to me dies."

"Oh Gaz," Rhian sobbed. She held me tight, stroking my chest.

I actually felt better now, having told someone my awful past, and finding that they didn't look at me like some loathsome creature in the bath.

They have bonded now - there are only a few more steps to go in the relationship. See next post.

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