You sit down into the second armchair, and he hands you a quilt that was folded on the armrest of his. You are indeed always cold.
There is so much meaning to you in this gesture of his, that you think you need to make sure you stay away from him from now on. He affects you, and it seems it’ll never change.
His large body that you know so well, the weight of it, the strength, the fluidity of movements, like a dancer, or a hackneyed large wild animal. You know the heat that comes off it, you know the smell. He’s stretched the long arm across the space between the armchairs, and you see the muscles and the tendons under the soft cashmere of the dark navy jumper.
But if only it were so simple! If only it were his body you suddenly realised you still wanted. It’s the galancy, the breed, the effortless care that is such a natural part of him. The Dr John Crispin Thorington, the successful, educated, elegant alpha male.
And then underneath it, even deeper, hidden, but so very clear to you – it’s John. John that used to be yours, used to be close to you, open to you. Your John. The John who loved you – and who still does.
It’s the John who reads three books at the same time, greedily, dropping them mid-way if they aren’t feeding his gigantic intellect, always hungry, always curious, but also the John who finished the trashiest ones if they amuse him. John who has a favourite mug, for his morning coffee, and it’s with Van Gogh’s sunflowers, as chavvy as it would seem to some of his peers. John who was once touched so much by an episode of Doctor Who that you thought you saw tears in his eyes, and you continued looking straight into the screen, giving him his privacy. And then he pulled you into him, your back pressed to his chest, and you felt his long nose burrowing into your hair, and you felt his heart booming and his breaths rising, because he was letting you in, sharing this moment with you.
It’s John whom you saw tired, irritated, sleepy, sick and whiny, ‘hangry,’ randy… and, maybe, happy. You danced with him, you had sex with him, you shared meals with him, you slept with him, you loved him. And you still do.
“I’m pissed off,” he deadpans, while you are busily wrapping into the quilt trying to regulate your breathing.
“With Mik. I’m acknowledging my emotions like Dr Harris told me.” He chuckles. “You know, not to overload the muscle…” He taps his long fingers on the left side of his chest. You know he knows that’s not where the heart is. These theatrics are part of his new self-deprecating humour, apparently. You actually really like it, which is another reason why you should definitely try not to spend much time around him.
“It’s just his character. I once saw him at a conference.” You shrug. “He managed to insult three of his colleagues in a ten minute report.”
“Impressive.” He shakes his head, smirking. The shadows of the small lamps on the veranda columns make his profile only more handsome. “He’s still a prick. I think…” He exhales purposefully, and you feel something clench in your stomach. “I think I’m just pissed off with… myself. No matter what I do and how much distance there’s between us, you still get this shite because of me.”
“It has nothing to do with you,” you answer quickly, and see his lips twist. That was a bad answer, wasn’t it, Wren? Yes, it was. It sounded like a daft reassuring nothing. Or as if you brushed his concern off. Or as if you told him sod off out of your life.
You tuck your feet under yourself, gathering your thoughts, and then turn your body towards him. If Dr John Crispin Thorington is now capable of an adult earnest conversation, you need to grow a pair and do the same.
“It has nothing to do with you, because if it weren’t for you, I’d still get all this shite. I’m young, female, and have no family connections.” He looks at you from the corner of his eye. You give him a soft smile. “I’m also capable, smart, and ambitious. They all want to eat me, and I bite back. That’s life. My past with you is just another thing they try to use against me, but just like with my gender and my age, I’m not going to let them. I am what I am, my age and my past included.”
“That was very life affirming,” he laughs warmly. “I am happy you feel that way.” He’s a hundred percent sincere. “And I envy you.”
“Well, I’m this Zen only now and then… Most of the time I’m just as insecure and spasmodic as I used to be.”
He gives you a long studying look. And you feel that he sees you – actually sees you.
“No, you are not,” he says in a low voice, and then quickly turns away and looks at the lawn in front of the veranda. “I’m leaving for Tokyo for four months. Yamataki invited me to participate in the opening of a new clinic. It’s a short project. I’ll be back by the end of the Summer, just in time for teaching.”
You hum, because you’re not sure what to say. Because you’re not sure what you think.
The two of you sit in silence for a few minutes.
“It’ll be strange…” you mumble, and he turns to face you again. “To know that you aren’t here. The city without John Thorington in it… That’s weird.” He smiles widely, which immediately makes you flustered. Not because you said a silly childish thing – somehow you’re OK with it. But because he’s so bloody fit, with his squinted eyes, and the white teeth, and the beard that you still remember so well! “Um… It’s not like I actually see you… Or have coffee with you on Tuesdays, or something, but still… You won’t be here.”
“I’d love to,” he calmly states, and you give him a questioning look. “Have coffee with you on Tuesdays.” You croak, and he grins even wider. “Actually, I’d even agree on Wednesdays, to be honest.”
The two of you laugh, and you suddenly know what to say next.
“We can find a Tuesday for that when you’re back in Autumn.” You aren’t even surprised at how smooth this line comes out. Your voice isn’t trembling, and you are sure even your nose isn’t twitching.
And just as you expected – or at least, hoped – he hikes up one eyebrow, under that very John Thorington angle, whimsical, and Roger Moore worthy.
“Well, there’s one every week…” he draws out, and you laugh louder. “Should I email you when I’m back?”
“Yeah.” Why is this so easy? Why aren’t you scared? Why aren’t you doubting?
“Are we talking about going out here? Excuse me, but I really need some clarity here.” He makes overdramatic puppy eyes. It’s twice as funny since it’s the Sun and Moon of Modern Neurosurgery we’re talking about – a hench bloke of six five, with his eyebrows hiked up, and peepers pitiful. “I’m an old man with a weak heart, Wren. These days I require diagrams and illustrations. A proper old goat now…” He continues his ridiculous theatrics, and you’re giggling.
“Yes, yes, I’ll ring you up – if I decide so, and we – might – go out on a Tuesday after your trip to Tokyo!” You raise your voice, as if trying to silence his blathering, and he guffaws.
“Well, no need to twist my arm into it, Wrennie! Blimey, it’s like it’s all set in stone already!” He flails his hand in the air, and you decide you just need to do it.
You climb off your armchair, and come up to him. He’ll looking up at you, his eyes brilliant. You could attach too much significance to what you’re going to do now; or you can say it was a spur of a moment; or you can pretend you don’t care – but maybe you’ve grown up just a wee bit, and you know that it is just what it is.
It’s just you kissing John.
There’s no room for you to sit near him, and you throw one leg over him and sit on his lap. He shifts, accommodating you, and you lean in, and he rises a bit, his hands softly lying on your waist. You two meet in the middle, and his lips are just as warm and as intoxicating as you remembered – and absolutely new and exciting.
Your head spins, and you press into him harder, wanting more, and his fingers clench around handfuls of your jumper. You know him so well, and somehow at the same time you’ve completely forgotten how good it is – kissing him and being kissed by him. A sweet shiver runs down your spine, and you feel him shudder under you. He does his usual thing – catches your bottom lip, and you feel the tip of his tongue to brush along it – and it’s like you’ve never felt it before. You lift one hand, and press your palm to the side of his neck, feeling the warmth, and the coarseness of the bottom of the beard under the thumb you’ve brushed to his throat. You’ve closed your eyes, and then you peek. He did as well, and your eyes meet. He moves away, a smile trembling in the corners of his lips.
There is nothing to say, really. ‘It’ll be long four months’ would be a good, corny line here. Or ‘Consider it a downpayment.’ Or ‘I’ll take this as a promise.’ Either of you could say any of that, and neither of you seems to want to ruin the moment.
He puts his hand at the back of your head and pulls you in, into a warm embrace. Your head lies on his shoulder, and you close your eyes.
The story will continue in Live Well and Prosper, the fifth and final part of Dr T Series.
Once I finished this chapter, I was going to post it, and wait another week before starting Live Well and Prosper, but then I thought – arrogantly – that life is short and difficult, and we all need a bit of joy, and if I can give it to you right now, why wait? So, please, proceed to the fifth and final part of Dr T Series, and let me make your week – or at least, hopefully, make your day a bit brighter 🙂
Thank you so much for reading and being with me on this journey! It would be nothing without you, my beloved readers!