Part 2, Mail Order Romance
Stan had already kissed his brother’s fiancée once, but he didn’t intend to let that happen again
Stan’s brother Manuel had invited Raya into his home, planning to spend the rest of their lives together. But then Cupid struck and Stan kissed Raya. Where was this going to lead?
Stan’s mind reeled all evening. Raya was his brother’s intended. How could he have let this happen? He should never have kissed her. And now he was going to spend a full day with her — maybe even more. He actually had no idea how long it would take to paint a mural. All he knew was one thing: no kissing!
At noon the following day, Stan arrived at his brother Manuel’s house. Raya opened the door with a bright smile.
“Good morning,” Stan said.
She inclined her head in greeting.
He followed her inside, his brother was nowhere to be seen. Raya led him to the dining room table, where several sketches were laid out. Stan shook his head in disbelief. This woman could really draw. She fidgeted with her dress next to him while scanning his face.
“No good?” she finally asked.
“Raya, they’re amazing! I don’t know which one to choose,” he replied with a broad smile. He hoped his tone was optimistic enough to convey what he said.
He selected the few drawings he liked least and stacked them on the side. In the end, he had three left. His top three were all depictions of a motorbike with girls around it, each with minute differences. Ultimately, he picked the one where the main girl looked a lot like Raya.
He took up the paper and turned to the woman. “This one.”
She smiled and nodded. “Okay.”
He stuck up his thumb to confirm his choice.
“Let’s go buy the paint.” She nodded, and they left the house for his car.
Once in the car, the atmosphere was tight and uncomfortable. Since Stan was behind the wheel, he couldn’t look up Russian translations for phrases or questions to break the ice. Raya was quiet and smiled politely when their eyes met. They were both relieved when they turned into the parking lot of the B&Q hardware store.
Stan gave Raya a coin so she could pick up a shopping cart. She looked at him in confusion, but when they arrived at the line of carts, and she saw they required a coin, she giggled and shook her head.
Inside the store, they headed directly to the paint department.
“Stan? Stan, is that you?” A shrill voice sounded.
Stan’s heart sank. Not her, not now. He faked a smile and turned around.
“Ashley, hi. How good to see you.”
“Oh God, Stan, I’d been meaning to call you but never got round to it.” She lovingly stroked her pregnant belly. “I had this one to take care of,” she said and shrugged her shoulders.
“I didn’t know you were with child.”
“And you didn’t know I was engaged, did you? To Mathew.” She stretched the vowels in the name. She stuck her ring finger nearly in Stan’s eye. “Isn’t it gorgeous? And you, have you met anyone since…?”
Since he caught her in bed with that bloke? Seeing her now, especially with Raya so close by, he couldn’t fathom what he ever saw in this woman. Yes, she was pretty, but the bubble popped the moment she opened her mouth.
Ashley bent close to him, held her stomach and whispered in his ear: “This one is only six months along. It could still be yours, you know?”
“That would be…interesting.” Stan prayed it wasn’t so.
“We’ll see. Mathew doesn’t know. He so good to me.”
Raya returned to him, holding a small can of paint.
“Oh, you did meet someone! How lovely! Hi, I’m Ashley.”
Raya smiled uncomfortably. “Raya.”
“I don’t think we’ve met before, have we?”
“Raya is not from around here. She’s engaged to my brother Manuel,” Stan explained.
“Wonderful. And you’re the one helping her settle in? Always the helping hand, you,” Ashley gushed. “Well, I should be off, have to find a bathroom soon. It was wonderful meeting you both. You’ll hear it if I have news,” she told Stan.
“Good luck, Ash. Hope you’ll be all right.”
Ashley waved happily before walking off, nearly bumping into an elderly woman in the path. “Sorry, so sorry.”
“Watch where you’re going, gal,” the woman chided.
“I see you found the paint?” Stan asked Raya while pointing at the can she was holding.
“Well, show me.”
They walked to the paint department with Stan pushing the shopping cart.
Raya knelt next to the bottom shelf but soon shook her head and sighed.
“What’s wrong?” He asked her.
She pointed to the cans and counted them with her fingers.
“Do you need more paint? Or more colours?” He picked up a leaflet showing a full array of colours.
Raya turned away shyly with a short shake of her head.
“Tell me, Raya. We’ll have it mixed if you need any of these colours.” He pointed to the colours and her, hoping to clarify his point.
She stared at the leaflet for a long time before pointing out two samples.
“Of course, we’ll have it made. How much do you need?”
They selected the size and the components and had both paints prepared. She picked a few stock cans before choosing the paint brushes and other needed accessories.
Stan would swear her eyes shone with happiness the moment the clerk showed and handed her the paint. He wondered about her life, both past and present, that such a small thing could bring her so much satisfaction.
They paid for the products and loaded everything up in the car.
Once at home, Stan asked Raya if she wanted to drink some tea or have lunch before she began her work, but she shook her head decidedly. She started her task immediately. He told her she only needed to ask if she needed help, but when she denied it, he made himself scarce by sitting on the couch nearby, reading the news on his tablet.
He would glance at the wall now and then, amazed at how Raya sketched the painting, making it come alive bit by bit.
An hour later, he decided she needed some tea at least, so he went off into the kitchen and returned shortly after with two steaming mugs. He handed her one. “Pozhaluysta,” he said with a grin, hoping his translation for ‘please’ was appropriate.
“Blagodaryu vas,” Raya replied and inclined her head. She put the cup on the nearby table and stretched her fingers.
“Blago…?” Stan repeated.
“Blagodaryu vas,” Raya said again with a smile.
He said it once more, and she nodded in approval.
They went back to their own thoughts.
Suddenly Raya picked up her phone and typed furiously. “Is woman your wife?” She asked.
It took Stan a moment to realise what she was saying. “Woman? Oh, you mean Ashley?”
Stan shook his head. “No, is not wife. Was girlfriend.” He mimicked her meant a long time ago. “Not now. Ne segodnya.”
It was funny she would ask him that. Why was she thinking about that now? Or had her mind gone back to yesterday’s kiss?
After the tea, she continued working.
When it was six o’clock, he interrupted her again. “Raya, it’s six.” He pointed at his watch. “Wanna go home?”
She sighed and then nodded.
He approached her and appraised her drawing on the wall. “It is very good. Excellent.”
“Thank you,” she slowly uttered.
“And thank you.”
To his surprise, she pressed her chest against his and placed a kiss on his lips. He closed his arms around her. When she made to move away, he instead held her tight.
“No home,” she whispered.
“I agree, Raya. I prefer you in my arms.” He brushed her lips with his, relishing her sweet taste, which he had longed for since the previous day. Her lavender scent enveloped him. She relaxed against him and pushed her chin upwards, hankering for his touch.
He accepted the invitation. Their kiss was just as natural as everything between them. They knew how to connect, what the other liked best and how to sate both their needs.
They stood there for what seemed like hours until their bliss was interrupted by Stan’s telephone ringing.
He exhaled and cleared his throat before answering.
“Stan, is Raya still with you? I thought she would be home for dinner. I’m starving here, man.”
“She is. She was so hard at work I didn’t want to interrupt her. I’ll bring her right over.”
Stan lovingly stroked Raya’s cheek.
“That’s about time,” Manuel complained before disconnecting the call.
“I need to take you home,” Stan told the woman in his arms.
She nodded with a melancholy smile.
“I need to work tomorrow, but you can paint here if you want,” Stan suggested.
She interlaced her fingers in his. “Me you together.”
“Tomorrow night? After work?”
“Good. One last kiss.”
Their lips melted together as their tongues danced their passionate tango, neither one wanting to stop first. They were both flushed and panting when they finally did.
“Come, first some water.”
He dragged her to the sink and splashed water on both his face and hers. She giggled and splashed water back at him. Soon the two were drenched. Stan threw her the kitchen towel.
“Let’s go, else Manuel will be angry.”
Her mood suddenly sullen, but she followed him to the car. Why did he feel like he was bringing a lamb to slaughter? Surely his brother wasn’t that bad to the woman.
Once the car was parked in front of his brother’s house, Raya bent forward and kissed him just as passionately as they had done back at his place. He nearly had to push her away.
“Tomorrow, Raya. I’ll see you tomorrow.” She nodded and finally left the car.
Stan knew full well this was forbidden love. His brother had imported her into the country intending to make her his wife. Manuel’s wife, not Stan’s. But Stan couldn’t help falling in love with her and it seemed she felt the same.