I stood in the doorway of the laundry room chatting with her as she took her laundry out of the drier and folded it. This was only the second time I had visited her at her home and we were just beginning to explore the romantic feelings that seemed to be developing between us.

“I feel a little shy,” she said, “folding my underwear while you watch.”

I had tried to be discrete watching her lift her panties out of the drier, shake them out, and fold them neatly before adding them to the pile. In my imagination I had traced the lines of the elastic on her skin as she wore them. First along the waistband, feeling the skin of her lower belly twitch as I skated my finger gently along. Then along the elastic round the leg – starting on her hip and gently, slowly, tantalizingly moving across and down, pushing aside an occasional hair that peeked out, until finally…

“Would you like me to give you a little privacy?” I asked. “I can wait in the lounge if you like.”

“No, I’d like you to stay and chat. I’m enjoying chatting.”

A few moments later she laughed as she pulled another pair out. “I think you will like these. They have sheep printed all over them.”

She held them up for me to see – stretched out between her two hands – then folded them quickly and added them to the pile.

“These are like curtains.” She said as she folded the next pair. They had a large flower print on them which did, indeed, look like the pattern one might expect on curtains.

I was enjoying these small intimacies. She seemed so happy and full of joy. I wanted to reach out and touch her, to hold her, to seduce her, to love her. But some subtle aspect of her body language told me, “No, wait, give me a little time.”

I realised how easy it would be to fall in love with her – deeply, precipitously, scarily and joyfully.

Somehow the magic never quite seemed to work for her.

“Friendship is a wonderful thing.” I reminded myself. But in the end, it was not enough.

Laundry by Steve Roberts, May 2004. All rights reserved.