This story begins at the end with The Last time: Love and lust in a three part story.
The Sliding Door tells the story of a woman—played by Gwyneth Paltrow—whose life goes two very different ways based on what transpires at one moment in time: Whether she caught or missed a commuter train. Most of life is like that, the path a life takes hangs on the balance of one moment in time, often just one decision.
It’s quite meaningful when you consider the possibilities in your own life choices, isn’t it. But even then, what is the point of giving those moments, those decisions, any thought if you can’t go back and change them, even if only to see if in fact it would all have turned out differently.
So, that’s how she lives her life, with the knowledge that you can’t undo what’s done, leaving no room for regrets. That is, with the exception of one. One moment, one decision—the fateful decision of the first time.
It began long before that day. A working relationship, turned friendship. Though careful and restricted to work and work related events, it was flirtatious from the very beginning.
He would visit her at her desk and sit for hours talking about everything and nothing. She did the same, often inventing excuses to do so.
In the ensuing years they would grow to be best friends. He, armed with inside information about her life while only allowing her inside of his, during rare vulnerable moments, knew her weaknesses.
She didn’t know he had a girlfriend until after a year into their friendship and already feeling more for him than she wanted to feel. After she learned of the girlfriend, she constantly reminded herself that she wasn’t ‘that’ girl. The one who became the other. It seemed he did the same as they resisted temptation when opportunities to give in arose.
But time weakened her defenses and as if he could feel this, it coincided with the beginning of his crossing boundaries.
Their games became less hair pulling and teasing and more meaningful glances, inappropriate touches.
He would walk behind her, pretending to attack her. His arm around her neck, bodies melded together. She could feel his excitement, feel her own as it was intensified by the knowledge that those around them had no idea what was happening as they laughed at their games.
But it wasn’t all fun and games; their relationship was volatile from the start, as he remained detached while she gave him her all. She should have walked away, but she was in too deep.
Then it all changed.
They admitted their attraction, and they were no longer just playing. Though they wouldn’t speak it out loud, they knew that every action became a step towards the next. She dated many others and he hounded her for details of each encounter, and she gladly shared satisfying her need to make him want to be part of each story.
Then one night he gave her a ride home and she invited him in to pick up the printer she had offered him. They had spent the evening at a work dinner and he had stared appreciatively all evening.
He had been to her place before, but this time they both had a few drinks. She began to remove her belt, nothing else, and it stuck.
She laughed, “It’s stuck, I can’t undo it. Help me.”
He came to stand in front of her, unclasping her belt, not moving away.
She stared up at him, he stared down at her.
“So yeah, the printer is over there. Let me get that ready for you.”
“Yeah, right, the printer. Wow, it’s late. I better get going.”
He left; the tension between them still palpable long after he was gone.
A month later at her house again for yet another reason they had invented together, they crossed yet another line.
The innocence of watching TV together moved from the sofa to the bed in her small studio apartment. They lied there together, fully clothed, as his hands began to wander. First stroking her hair, then rubbing her back slowly moving downward until they found her ass—his achilles heel where she was concerned—lingering there for minutes before she woke up from her trance and stopped things from taking a turn they’d both regret. They apologized to each other and a few days later invented a fight to force a distance between them—the first of a pattern they would follow for years.
It was months before they spoke again, but drawn together by a magnetic force neither could explain they went right back to the dangerous flirtation where they left off. Each day becoming bolder until the only choice left was to give in or end the friendship.
They gave in.
She arrived home from a party tipsy from a few margaritas. He called her and asked her to get online because he wanted her to see something.
“I’m coming over,” he typed.
“I can’t get you out of my mind and I know you want me, too. We can’t avoid this. We’re going to fuck.”
“Right! You’re all talk.”
“I’m on my way,” he said.
Ten minutes later he was at her door and all of his earlier bravado had been left on the computer screen.
“We can’t do this,” he said.
“No, you have a girlfriend. We really can’t.”
He came in and they sat down to watch TV; he on the couch, she on the floor, mindful of safety in distance.
She went to change and came back to find him lying on her bed. He patted the space next to him, the one by the wall. The fact that she would have to climb over him was not lost on her.
She chose to climb in from the foot of the bed, the beginning of their future game of pretend.
“You’re on my side,” she said.
“Ok, you can have it, just climb over me.”
She hesitated, thought about what was about to happen. Knew there would be consequences but also knew that it was inevitable. Whether it was tonight or another day their lust for each other would be satisfied, or it would destroy their friendship.
She moved and positioned herself over him. He looked up at her and took her face in his hands, kissed her; a kiss that felt as if she had been holding her breath and had finally been allowed to exhale. She knew he felt the same. Their rush to feel and explore every part of the other felt like a desperate race neither could win.
After the mad race ended, she looked over towards him and saw him, head resting on the arm that propped it up, staring into the room.
She asked if he was okay.
Without turning he said, “Yeah, it’s just that I wish this happened a different way. That I had been one of those guys who took you to dinner, who brought you flowers. I wish we would’ve done it right.”
“Oh. Yes, that would have been nice.” she said quietly as she stared at the ceiling, a bad feeling taking over her thoughts. A bad feeling she wouldn’t be able to define for years.
“Oh forget it,” he said as he turned back towards her. He kissed her, stroked her hair. She gave in to what followed and allowed how he made her body feel to erase any doubt.
Continues at After “The last time” cookie crumbs and lies