She had said the lamp was magic but I wasn't sure if she was hallucinating or if I misheard her. She leant her body over my torso and I got another aroma of her strawberry scented hair. Her smooth skin touched mine and my eyes followed the curve of her back as she lay over me. She turned over and stared at me with those blue eyes of hers. Those blue eyes that made my knees go weak. I would do anything for her; even pretend the lamp was magic.
I usually hated going to markets, but she had insisted we did. So one Sunday morning when the sun was warm, we decided to go. She hated me wearing my hat and dark ray bans but I had no choice. She knew what she was getting herself into when she agreed to be with me. We walked through the crowd of people who were moving in unison up and down Jacka Boulevard. Sporadic gusts of wind would swirl her long hair around and tiny strands would get caught around my hand which was always on her shoulder. She stopped beside a store selling Oriental and Hindu treasures. I let go of her and let her explore the artifacts on the square table while I watched the mad mouse do laps around Luna Park behind me. I wasn't paying any attention to her while she spent my money and before I knew it, I was holding plastic bags that seemed heavy for the thrift junk she bought.
She had the lamp next to the television and as much as I pretended, I couldn't hide the fact I didn't like it. It was covered in blue and gold jewels and every time I watched something, the light from the television would catch one of the jewels and the flickering would distract me. But when she would come into the room wearing the black lingerie I bought her, I forgot about the lamp altogether.
"I told you the lamp was magic," she said.
I stared at the back of her naked body as she got off the bed and sat on the arm chair in the corner of the room.
"Did the old man tell you that?"
“He told me that if I rubbed it, we could be together forever."
I turned my head and looked out the window. I hated doing this to her but unless I was honest, then she would always live in the hope she and I would one day be able to consummate our relationship.
"Baby, come on enough. This is as far as it goes."
She stuck up her middle finger and then started getting dressed. "You are such an asshole."
"Come back, where are you going?" I called out as I watched her gather the rest of her clothes which were sprawled on the floor.
She didn’t answer me and when I heard the door slam I knew I had to get up. I walked into the lounge and wasn’t at all surprised when I found her standing next to the door. Her hair fell loosely around her shoulders and her jeans fit around her perfect hourglass figure like a glove. She had her hands on her hips and stared at me with her pouty lips.
“One day I’m really going to leave,” she said.
I walked up to her and placed my arms around her waist and pulled our bodies close together.
“Francesca, put your bags down and come back to bed.”
I felt her push herself away. “No.”
My forehead crinkled. I’d never heard her say ‘no’ like that before. “No?”
“No, Jimmy. I said no. This is going nowhere. I hate hiding in this crappy apartment and going to the same places in case someone sees you with me.”
Whenever she got angry, her nose would scrunch and her eyes would become smaller. I don’t know whether she knew this or not, but this was when she was the most beautiful and when I was the most weak. “OK.”
“OK, what?” she answered.
“OK, I’m sorry. Why don’t we go away for the weekend? How about we go to Sydney?”
Her eyes widened and the creases on her forehead smoothed out. I could see her chest rising and when she came and stood close to me, I could feel her breath on me. “Me and you?”
“Just the two of us.” I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her close. She buries her head in the nape of my neck and I breathed the scent of her hair.
“I told you the lamp was magic,” she said as she peeled herself off me.
She went back into the bedroom with her bag. I walked up and stood in front of the television, staring at the lamp. It felt cold in my hands when I touched it. I rubbed it against the palm of my hand and then put it back. I could hear Francesca calling my name. I smiled as I followed the sound of her voice.
The next morning, I let her sleep in. I loved staring at her hair sprawled across the pillow. I tiptoed out of the apartment, afraid she’d become angry at me for leaving. But I had to go. My stomach was always in knots whenever I left the apartment on Monday mornings. I hated the man I had become but this thing I had with Francesca was beyond my control.
When I arrived home, I spotted Louisa in the front garden, pruning the red roses I had planted back in the winter. They were supposed to grow along the fence line instead they were growing in small pockets. “How was Brisbane?”
“Hot,” I said putting my suitcase down. I kissed her cheek and felt her body against mine as she hugged me. “Are the kids home?”
“They’re at school. Remember?”
I jokingly laughed off my remark and followed my wife of twelve years into the house we bought together. I left my suitcase in the hallway and Louisa dumped her gardening gloves on the floor. She pushed me against the wall and unzipped my pants and jumped up on me. I didn’t subdue and let her pelvis grinds up against mine. After she climaxed, she got off me , pulled up her pants, picked up her gloves and went back outside. She left me half naked and out of breath. I wasn’t sure where this had come from but despite this surprise from my wife, I still had Francesca’s body indelible in my mind.
It’d been a week since I’d seen Francesca and when I picked her up from outside the supermarket on Chapel Street, she was wearing sunglasses and drinking a juice from the corner shop. “Amore... tesoro. ” she said.
“You should talk like more often.”
She smiled and pressed her lips onto mine. I immediately pushed her away and looked around in circles. She slapped my face with her cold hand and started to walk in the opposite direction. I hated when she did this. She knew I hated being affectionate in public.
“Francesca....Francesca!” I followed her for a few meters before she stopped. “Come on, don’t be like that. How many times do I have to tell you.”
“You’re never leaving her, are you?” she said turning around. “I’ll never be your priority, will I?”
I didn’t answer straight away instead I listened to the traffic around me and chose to stared at her gold shoes for a while. I felt her soft skin touch my fingertips and so I looked up. The breeze swirled her hair around and I got a trace of strawberry essence. I moved in closer and interlocked my fingers with hers.
When we arrived back at the apartment, she put her bags down and disappeared into the bathroom. I sat on the sofa and took a deep breath. When she emerged, she was wearing a blue and green sheer kimono. She was holding the lamp in her hands.. I watched her as she placed it on the mantle behind her. In a flurry she was naked. I looked at her and then at the lamp. I wasn’t sure what had come over me, but it was as though I was hypnotised. My arms suddenly felt heavy and it felt as though something was keeping me down. “This is magic.” I heard her whisper in my ear.
When I woke up sometime later, Francesca had gone but the lamp remained. I picked it up and turned it over. I swallowed hard when I saw the inscription: Louisa’s Lamp. It fell from my trembling hands and hit the floor.
When I arrived back home, I told Louisa I no longer needed to travel interstate for work. She told me she knew.