Story: Mental Conditioning

He laid his hands on the slender neck and flicked his thumb in a loving caress over the sloping shoulders. His fingers softly traced the edges of the mouth as droplets of sweat fell on his chest. He tightened his grip, a lump formed at his throat, and he let out a low sigh.

The last drop of wine was drained, yet nothing was better than before. He pulled another of these elongated bottles from the carton, this time wiping the opening with his palm instead, before taking another gulp. He couldn’t think and he didn’t want to speak.

A sketch of the chateau on the wine label, with fine cursive print indicating its St Estephe origins, spun discordantly from the rest of the room. How many times had he confided in the deep red liquid within, about his heart that had turned tough and cold like clayey from the region?

The first bottle rolled to the floor; it’s emptiness bringing a resounding clink. There, he saw her face again – the comforting words she had said, the peals of laughter that brightened his day.

He had once thought that he loved these other women in his life, but only came to realise that each of them were shadows of her. Each time he smiled at them, his heart called her name; when he imagined that he had found a new interest, it was but a feeble attempt to forget her.

One mistake – and that paradisiacal life with her was annihilated.

What remained was the smooth glass that felt like the delicate touch of her skin, and the bittersweet Merlot lingering in his mouth to remind him of the taste of her kiss…

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