After the coffee date, you have one more. A week later you meet up for a nice cozy dinner in a small Italian bistro. There is a tea candle on the table, and he looks delicious with soft shadows dancing on his face. You two laugh a lot, and just can’t stop talking. The food goes cold; and then the waiter has to cough twice to make the two of you stop chinwagging and finally order some pudding. Both you and John don’t wants any, but it seems neither do both of you want the evening to end.
Instead of taking a cab you walk, continuing your chat. It’s a greedy, jumping from topic to topic, picking up previous lines kind of chatting. Both of you raise your voices, interrupt each other, laugh loudly, and gesture wildly. At some point it calms down, and you just walk, he’s carrying his coat, you pushed your hands in the pockets of yours. The conversation is calmer now, more pensive, and then suddenly you’re in front of your building.
Of course, you’ve thought of what’s going to happen after. You’ve considered and ‘overconsidered’ the question of kissing, and, of course, the question of shag. And it’s the second date, but on the other hand, you’ve been as much as married. And it’s all new, and tentative, but on the other hand, you want him so much that your hands are shaking.
You walk couple steps up, not sure what you think, and then you turn around sharply, still not knowing what to say, and see that he’s lingered behind you on the sidewalk, one foot on the first step. He’s not following you, just looking at you, and you catch the unguarded loving expression in his eyes.
In the warm, sparkly light of the streetlamps, he looks like a prince from a fairy tale. Not those glossy, anti-feminist Disney ones, like the abusive Beast, or the vague one from Cinderella. Somehow you think back at the only VHS you had in one of your foster homes. It was Gulliver’s Travels, from 1939; and as prickly and as ballsy as you were when you were eleven, you secretly watched and rewatched it, and you’d rather die but admit that you watched that doll looking prince with tears in your eyes.
You’ve seen John’s face millions of times, but how much do we actually notice about people around us, until that one crisp moment when the lines suddenly stand out for us? The thick black eyebrows, the elongated shape of bright blue eyes, the crow’s feet, the curve of the lips. He’s endlessly dashing in his navy jumper, the lines of the strong neck and wide shoulders, as if etched in the darkness of the night, and the coat thrown over his arm, which makes him look even more of a romantic figure.
There is a soft smile on his lips, and his eyes are shining, and you step towards him, and your eyes level to his, and you lean in and kiss him. He wraps one arm around your waist, still in accordance with this suddenly manifested charming princely nature; and you gingerly place one hand at the back of his neck, while another lies on his chest. His lips are warm, and gentle. There is no hunger, but still plenty of passion; and tenderness; and some sort of vulnerability.
It’s a Hollywood worthy moment, and you’re melting into it, your heart fluttering, and your breathing shuddered. Sod all cliches, you’ll take it as it is, and will be happy that this is the place you’re in right now. You’re in love with the man, and you’ll stop analyzing, and just cherish the second chance you two have gotten.
The kiss is long, and it’s starting to heat up, when he softly steps back, and you see him take a deep calming breath in.
“Good night, Wren.” His voice is thick and smoky, and you lean in again ad quickly kiss his cheek.
“Night.” You twirls on your heels and rush to the door.
Three days after it, you’re getting ready to go to work. You bend down to pick up a sock you threw on the floor the night before, and something twists in your hip – in a sadly familiar way. You cry out and press your hand into the wall, supporting yourself. That’s the pinched nerve in the right side of your pelvis. You were a breech baby, and had a few injuries in your teen years: two nasty falls in a dancing class, and one encounter with a ditch due to a daft boyfriend with a bike.
The pain is excruciating. The tears immediately run your cheeks, and you take careful breaths in. You know the drill, really. First, the pain will be centered, just in one spot, white and furious; but then it’ll spread, through the pelvis, and the lower back, blinding and burning; and in an hour you will be properly immobile. You need to ring up the lab to take sick days, arrange someone to take you to your masseuse, then acupuncturist, and then five days in bed, each movement accompanied by the shot of pain similar to someone burying an ax into your spine. That’s just bloody ace, isn’t it?
Thankfully, you reach Thea, and then the two of you go through the good old dance called ‘Wrennie is in so much pain she will take any drugs you can give her.’ No drugs help here, though. A good mattress and no extra movement will.
You’re taken in in the clinic right away, and the next three hours pass in the habitual tortures. You’re squeezed, twisted, and kneaded; and then there are needles, with wires attached to them; your body protesting, and your mind succumbing to overwhelming self-pity.
Thea drives you home and offers to stay. You know she doesn’t want to. Thea can’t stand sick people. You let her go with sincere thank-you’s, and relax in your bed. It’s clearly Netflix time.
You order takeaway, and the first two days pass in Doctor Who marathon; Interstellar, which you’ve been meaning to watch for a while; Jessica Jones; and then Princess Bride to detox from a man wearing the face of Ten being the creepiest fuck there has been shown on telly.
The evening of day two of your sudden hols – not the good kind – John rings you up to offer to go to cinema the next day. You have half a mind to tentatively agree – you properly want to go – but then you remind yourself that inadequate self-care will cripple you for a month or so.
“Um… I have that back thing again…” You’re trying to remember if he’s even born witness to it. Hm… You definitely mentioned it, but you think the previous episode was when the two of you just started dating, so he wouldn’t have seen it. “I have a pinched nerve in the… pelvis. Nothing serious. Just need a bit of rest, and as little movement as possible. Should I ring you when I’m up for going out?”
He’s silent a bit on the other end, and you wonder what he’s thinking about so hard there.
“Wren, I’d really want to help, but I’m not sure where we are with visitations…” Ah, that explains it. His tone is adorably uncertain.
“I’d love to see you,” you answer. “I can’t move much, but if you’re OK with sitting and watching telly with me…” He laughs in your mobile.
“I’d love to come and watch telly with you.”
You agree on him coming in two hours, and you make a superhuman effort and go to the shower. You took one yesterday, but it was just a quick rinse. Being a thick, thick hen who decided to clean up for her fella, you’ve overestimated the healing you’ve done by now, and mid-shower you realise that you might have to sit in the tub and wait for him to come and pull you out. Although, he’d need to break your door down for that, since he has no key. That would be a rather ridiculous situation, wouldn’t it? And definitely not how you imagined him seeing you starkers for the first time. Well, not the first time, per se… You breathe through another wave of piercing pain that feels like a metal belt with daggers turned inwards around your pelvis, quickly wash off the soap, and step out of the tub. You wrap in the robe and sit down on a chair in the hall near the bathroom. If you go and lie down right now, you won’t be able to get up to let him in.
Thankfully, he’s here twenty minutes later. He buzzes, you get up with a groan, and let him in. And then you have to stand on the same spot, leaning onto the wall, taking careful breaths in. Isn’t Wren a bleeding idiot? You properly should have decided on a date in a week, and come to it – pretty, fit, and bendable. As opposed to wet, sad, and stiff as a mop handle.
The door opens, and he comes in, with grocery bags, and a bouquet of your favourite red carnations. He sees you, and the smile on his face drops.
“It’s really not that bad!” you squeak. “I am fine when I’m in bed. I just… The shower took too long.”
He carefully puts down his treats and steps to you.
“What do you need, Wrennie? I can carry you, or…”
“No, no, it’ll hurt more. Just… I’ll go lie down… And you come…” You’re momentarily regretful that you invited him, and that he just saw you so pathetic, and that he’s now studying you with worried eyes. Stupid, stupid Wren.
“So you know, you’re still super sexy,” he deadpans, and you stare at him. “The wet hair, rosy cheeks… And your robe covers very little. So I’ll go stick my head under cold water, then make us a cuppa, and come to pretend to watch telly while lusting over your body. OK?” A wide smile breaks on his face, and you giggle.
“Thank you,” you answer softly. It’s your gratitude for coming, and for reassuring, and for not being a prick, but a loving man that you momentarily forgot he has always been capable of being. He nods, and you slowly walk to the bedroom.
And then you realise you really fancy to have fresh sheets right now. Thea changed them two days ago, but you’d love to have clean ones. There’s another set in your wardrobe, and you chew on your lip wondering if it’s OK to ask him to help.
He finds you still standing staring at your bed.
“I put the kettle on. And I’ll cook you dinner, because you will soon succumb to scurvy like a proper seadog, considering the rubbish you’ve been eating.” He then hikes up one eyebrow. “What are we looking at?”
“Could you… help me with sheets?” you ask in a small voice, and he throws a long look at your rumpled bed.
“No.” That was a bloody decisive answer. What did you expect? It’s all awkward, and it’s your bed, and the two of you… “There’ll be no ‘helping.’ You sit, or stand, whatever works, and I’ll do it. Where are the sheets?”
You point at the drawer and lean on the wall.
You’re watching him deftly move around your small bed, pulling, taking off, tucking, and straightening. Blimey, you love to watch him move, whatever he does. There’s the assurance, and the gracefulness, and then he throws you a cheeky grin over his shoulder.
“Are you agonising about me being in your bed?” He wiggles his eyebrows, in complete accordance with the genre.
“No, I’m staring at your arse,” you bite back, and he guffaws.
“Help yourself. I checked yours out in the hall. And you should tighten up the robe too.” He points at your cleavage with his eyes. The low, purposefully husky voice, and a ridiculous Casanova smirk are funny – and whom are you kidding, very sexy too.
He leaves for kitchen to manage the kettle, and you pick up PJs from the wardrobe, and change as quickly as your body allows you. You’re very glad you didn’t refuse his offer to come.