The Summer goes well. The highlights of it are the trips to Blackpool with Lan and Killian; Thea’s birthday do, with karaoke, and her yet another noisy making up with Jimmy; and that day when you marched into Maya’s office and put your resignation letter on her table. Yeah, maybe you could have done it by email, but where’s the fun in that? You wouldn’t be able to enjoy the expression of shock on her face – the one she properly tried to hide, but couldn’t, since you made sure to milk the moment as much as possible, smiling smugly and blathering about how much better Rivendell’s research focus fits your impressive credentials, which now include an acceptance letter to a grad school. Arriving to Rivendell was ace too; the grads threw a quick lunch party, meaning you got a small cupcake with your first lunch there, and Lan popped a cracker above your head. There was a bit of confetti in your hair even the next day, and Elvig gave you a knowing smile.
You date. Well, it’s an exaggeration. You go on two dates. One is a disaster. The bloke is a friend of Thea’s, and you just yawn through it, and hope it ends quickly. Another one is a decent dinner with a semi-decent one-off afterwards. It’s a one-off because it’s only semi-decent. You two had fun, but something just didn’t click. It happens, and the two of you were adults about it in the morning. You’re asked out by a fellow student again, in August, but by then you’ve made up your mind.
Two weeks later, an email comes. It’s a photo of John near a panda in an enclosure in the Tokyo Zoo.
The email says,
They weren’t invited for coffee on a Tuesday, and look how few of them are left!
P.S. Back tomorrow. Need caffeine.
You burst into loud laughter in your new lab, and Lan turns on his swivel chair.
“Good news?” he asks, cocking an eyebrow sardonically, and you have to concede that, indeed, it is.
It is Thursday, and you laugh at yourself for ridiculous teenage thoughts of whether you should wait couple days to answer, or text him right away. You swirl on your chair, chew at a pencil, and enjoy every second of it.
You wait till Saturday; then you think that if you text on a Saturday morning it’ll look like you have no life; then you laugh at yourself, and end up texting him at strange 11.45 on a Saturday; and then you laugh because it really doesn’t matter. And then there’s even more giggling because you find a typo in your text as soon as you hit ‘send.’
You’ve invited him to a coffee date after your work – indeed on Tuesday; and then you’re lying on your bed on your back, dangling your feet, holding the phone above your face, waiting for his answer, excitement bubbling in you. The mobile beeps; and of course, it’s like a Jack-in-a-box, no matter how prepared you are, it still startles you. You drop the phone on your nose, curse, and finally open his text. It says, You weren’t joking about coffee?! I thought it was a euphemism! And yes, please. You stick your tongue at the screen, and go to the kitchen to make your lunch, hopping and humming Lady Gaga.
On Tuesday you’re so distracted by your jitters – the good kind – and daydreaming – the naughty kind, you’re embarrassed to admit – that Lan ends up throwing a crumpled piece of paper into your head. The git has an amazing aim!
“Leary! Get your head out of where it’s stuck!”
You rise off your chair and go to the kitchenette with your mug. On the way you stop by him and place a loud kiss on his cheek. His thick Thrandon eyebrows jump up.
“My head is in the clouds, my mind is in the gutter, and life is good!” you sing-song, and dance out of the room, wiggling your hips.
“Have you finally fallen off the trolley completely?!” he yells after you, and you laugh.
Maybe, you have. But you properly don’t mind.
You’re off work, and you’re running down the stairs, pulling on your jacket in a rush. The coffee shop is three blocks away, and you’re already late. The last tests of the day took longer; and now you’re galloping through the streets, jumping over puddles, at the risk of slipping.
You clearly imagine how you flop into a dirty puddle; your carefully chosen outfit – casual, but with a lot of thought put into it – gets soaked, and that is how you’re presented to the Sun of the Modern Neurosurgery – dripping grotty dirty water on the floor, wet, and pathetic. But probably, still grinning, because it feels like you won’t stop smiling even then.
You arrive to the shop unsullied, and you push the door, the bells rings, and you see him at the table. One step, two – you should be feeling shy; you broke up with him more than a year ago; you two have history; you haven’t seen him in four months; you kissed on Elvig’s veranda, and then haven’t spoken two words to each other – but you speed up, and he opens his arms and bends down a bit, and you hang on his neck.
You’ll question it later. You might feel embarrassed. You will definitely overanalyze it all. But for now he straightens up, and presses you to him wholeheartedly, and makes that warm, happy groan like noise he used to make.
“Oh, Wrennie, so good to see you!”
You laugh happily, and nuzzle his temple. The soft curls tickle your nose, and you kiss the delicious cheekbone with gusto.
“Hi!” You sound very excited, and he laughs as well, and puts you down, but somehow he’s holding your hand, and you sit down, your fingers still in his. He sits down across the small table, and you greedily look into his face.
Have you ever before noticed just how handsome he is? Of course, you have. But you also see the warmth in his eyes, and how happy he is to see you, and that he missed you. You don’t know whether it’s because he isn’t hiding it anymore, or maybe you’re looking more attentively now. You really used to be too wrapped up in your insecurities before. You didn’t appreciate him enough.
“You need to let go of my hand,” you say and grin to him. “I need to order.”
A waiter pops up and puts a cup of earl grey in front of you, and a raspberry tart, and the man in front of you gives out a ridiculous ‘Ta-da!’ looking very pleased with himself. You laugh again. It seems it’s all the two of you have been doing since you came in; it’s just the tone of it changes, from exuberant, to tender, to playful, but it’s all beer and skittles, apparently.
“Still need my hand,” you draw out, hiking up one eyebrow. “How am I supposed to eat?”
“I can feed you.” His eyebrow is up as well, and you snort. He lets go off your fingers, slowly, with a loud theatrical sigh, and you pick up the cup and hide behind it.
“How have you been?” you ask after the first sip, and he leans back in the chair. His mug of black coffee is half empty.
“Busy. Annoyed. Yamataki was driving me bonkers, and I wanted to go back… home.” You didn’t miss that pause before ‘home.’ Was it supposed to be ‘to you?’ That would be too soppy, wouldn’t it? “How are you?”
“I’ve moved to Rivendell in June.” You pick up your fork.
“Tell me you took Maya’s photo when you told her you resigned.” The smirk is devilish, and you really want to kiss him right now. You pick up some raspberry and custard and stuff them into your mouth – as the second best option, so to say. You chew, he’s drinking his coffee.
“Sorry, I didn’t. But I did it in person. As a more personal gesture, to show my gratitude for the opportunities she’d given me, as I explained to her.” You batter your lashes innocently, he guffaws. That only adds to your giddy randiness. It’s not even the physical desire to rip off his clothes and ravish him – though, there’s plenty of this too. It’s you wanting all of him. You want to make him laugh. You want to parade how bad arse you’re before him. You properly should stop seductively eating raspberries, because he’s already noticed and is staring at your mouth.
“Wren, I…” He’s croaky, and clears his throat loudly. He then looks you over, his eyes bright, and it makes you tingle all over. “I want you back.”
He pauses, and you get it. That was a heavy statement. You give him time. That’s the smart part of you. You’re also frozen, fork midair, and eyes like saucers. You aren’t made of stone, and you might still be in love with him. So, he’s not the only one who needs a mo, alright?
You bloody want him back too, but it’s not that simple, is it?
He exhales through rounded lips, and then he covers his mouth with his hand for a second. That’s a defensive, reserved body language, and you wait, holding your breath, to see if he’ll continue hiding the tight line of lips you know is behind his hand, or he’ll open up.
He puts the hand on the table, palm up.
“I don’t want to play games. I don’t know if I can…” He shakes his head, apparently dissatisfied with his own words. “I missed you, and I thought hard about us. Four months are more than enough for that…” He gives you a direct look, and you put down your fork. “I want you back, and I’m asking you to give it a thought… But… If there’s someone, or you don’t think you will… Just tell me as soon as you can, OK?”
You put your hand in his, and smile to him.
“I want you back too.”
You could say you want to try, that you want to trust him, and that you want to see if it could work out this time around. You could tell him the two of you need to learn on old mistakes; and there are old wounds to heal; and that the two of you have to be careful; and smart about it; and work hard.
But you’re sure he knows.
He exhales with obvious relief, and nods.
“Perfect.” His voice is warm, and velvet, and a brilliant smile blooms on his face, and you quickly squeeze his hand. And then you let go and pick up your fork.
“Perfect,” you echo his line, and there is a pause.
And now it’s time to start working on it.