بخش 82

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بخش 82

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  • زمان مطالعه 8 دقیقه
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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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متن انگلیسی فصل

Ella

BOSTON, JUNE 29, 2008

By the time Ella got to the hotel, she was so tense she couldn’t think properly. There was a group of Japanese tourists in the lobby, all of whom appeared to be in their seventies and sported the same haircut. She crossed the lobby, scanning the paintings on the walls, so as not to have to look in the eyes of the people around her. But it didn’t take long for her curiosity to defeat her timidity. And the moment her gaze slid toward the meeting area, she saw him, watching her.

He was wearing a khaki button-down shirt and dark corduroy trousers, and had a two-day stubble that she thought made him quite attractive. His curly chestnut hair fell over his green eyes, giving him an air of confidence and mischief all at once. Wiry and thin, light and lithe, he was very different from David in his expensive tailor-made suits. He spoke with a Scottish brogue, which she found charming, and smiled with an ease of manner, looking genuinely happy and excited to see her. And Ella couldn’t help asking herself what harm there could be in having a cup of coffee with him.

Later on, she would not be able to remember how one cup of coffee became several cups, or how the conversation took on an increasingly intimate tone, or how at some point he planted a kiss on her fingertip, just as she would not be able to explain why she didn’t do anything to stop him. After a while nothing seemed to matter as long as he kept talking and she could let her gaze linger on the small dimple at the corner of his mouth, wondering what it would be like to kiss him there. It was half past eleven o’clock in the evening. She was in a hotel with a man she didn’t know anything about, aside from some e-mails and phone calls and the novel he’d written.

“So you’re here for Smithsonian magazine?” Ella asked.

“Actually, I’m here for you,” Aziz answered. “After reading your letter, I wanted to come and see you.”

Still, there were possible exit routes off this fast-moving highway. Up to a certain moment, it remained possible to pretend that everything was just on friendly terms—the e-mails, the phone calls, even the glances. A bit flirtatious and playful, perhaps, but nothing more than that. She could have drawn a line. That is, until he asked, “Ella, would you like to come to my room?” If this was a game they were both playing, that was when it got serious. His question made everything far too real, as if a mantle had been lifted and the truth, the naked truth that had been there all along, now looked them squarely in the face. Ella felt something stir in her stomach, a bubbling discomfort that she recognized as panic, but she did not turn him down. This was the most impulsive decision she had made in her life, and yet at the same time it felt as if the decision had already been made for her. All she needed to do was to accept it.

Room 608 was pleasantly decorated in hues of black, red, gray, and beige. It was warm and spacious. She tried to remember the last time she’d stayed in a hotel. A trip to Montreal with her husband and children a long time ago popped into her mind. After that, they had spent all their vacations at their house in Rhode Island, and she’d had no reason to stay in a place where the towels were changed daily and breakfast was prepared by others. Being in a hotel room felt like being in a different country. And perhaps she was. Already she could feel the frivolous freedom one could enjoy only in a city where everyone was a complete stranger.

But as soon as she walked into the room, her nervousness came back. No matter how tasteful the decor or how spacious the room, the king-size bed was clearly at its center. Standing next to it made her feel awkward and guilty. She started struggling with internal questions, getting nowhere. Would they make love now? Should they? If they did, how could she look her husband in the eye afterward? But David never had any difficulty looking her in the eye despite his many flings, did he? And what would Aziz think of her body? What if he didn’t like it? Shouldn’t she be thinking about her children now? Were they asleep or awake watching TV at this hour? If they learned what she was about to do, would they ever forgive her?

Sensing her unease, Aziz held her hand and moved her toward an armchair in the corner, away from the bed.

“Hush,” he whispered. “It’s so crowded inside your mind. Too many voices.”

“I wish we had met earlier,” Ella heard herself say.

“There is no such thing as early or late in life,” Aziz said. “Everything happens at the right time.”

“Do you really believe that?”

He smiled and brushed a cloud of hair out of his eyes. Then he opened a suitcase and brought out the tapestry he’d bought in Guatemala and a small box that turned out to be a necklace of turquoise and red coral balls with a silver whirling dervish.

Ella let him put the necklace around her neck. Where his fingers touched her skin, she felt warm. “Can you love me?” she asked.

“I already love you.” Aziz smiled.

“But you don’t even know me!”

“I don’t have to know to love.”

Ella sighed. “This is crazy.”

Aziz reached around and pulled out the pin holding her bun, letting her hair loose. Then he gently moved her onto the bed. Slowly, tenderly, and in ever-growing circles, he moved his palms up from her feet toward her ankles and from there toward her belly. All the while his lips muttered words that sounded like a secret ancient code to Ella. Suddenly she understood. He was praying. While his hands caressed every inch of her body, his eyes remained firmly closed and his lips prayed for her. It was the most spiritual thing she had ever experienced. And although she kept her clothes on, and so did he, and although there was nothing carnal about it, it was the s@xiest feeling she had ever experienced.

All at once her palms, her elbows, her shoulders, her whole body began to tingle with a strange energy. She was possessed by so magnificent a desire that she felt as though she were floating on warm, wavy waters where all she could do was surrender and smile. She sensed a living presence around him, then around her, as if they were both being showered in a drizzle of light.

She, too, closed her eyes now, drifting in a wild river without holding on to anything. There might be a waterfall at the end for all she knew, but even if she could have stopped, she wasn’t sure she wanted to.

Ella felt a burning between her legs when his hands reached her belly, drawing a circle there. She felt insecure about her body, her hips and thighs and the shape of her breasts, which were far from perfect after three kids and all these years, but the anxiety came and went. Feeling buoyant, almost protected, she snapped into a state of bliss. And just like that, she realized she could love this man. She could love him so much.

With that feeling she put her arms around Aziz, pulling him toward her, ready to go further. But he snapped his eyes open, kissed her on the tip of her nose, and pulled away.

“You don’t want me?” Ella asked, amazed by the fragility of her voice.

“I don’t want to do anything that would make you unhappy afterward.”

Half of her felt like crying; the other half was elated. A strange feeling of lightness took hold of her. She was entirely confused, but, to her great surprise, for once it felt okay to be confused.

At half past one in the morning, Ella opened the door to her apartment in Boston. She lay on the leather couch, unwilling to sleep in the master bed. Not because she knew that her husband had been sleeping there with other women, but because somehow it felt better like this, as if this house didn’t belong to her any more than a hotel room, as if she were a guest here and her true self were waiting elsewhere.

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