Dreams Unwind

[s i x]

Tubs bolts from the carrier as soon as I unzip it, and I watch him disappear down the hall and into my bedroom. The blinds in my window clatter noisily; I smile to myself and climb to my feet. Flipping the switch to the foyer light, dousing the entryway in darkness, I toe off my shoes, kick them to the pile next to the wall, and shove the carrier into the coat closet. The years I’ve lived in this house lend experience, and I don’t stumble as I make my way to the living room. Bothering Tubs right now is an awful idea, so I flop on the sofa, turn on the television, and watch Psych as I wait for my cat to be content again.

He comes back out after an hour, jumping onto the couch and curling in a ball on my lap. I stroke his fur absentmindedly but don’t look away from the TV. It’s one of my favourite scenes - the one where Shawn is about to tell Chief Vick the truth but Juliet stops him. The idea of someone loving another enough to ruin their own life by stopping the charades, of loving someone enough to stop them… I like to think that I had that with Wil, that I always would have. As if he can read my mind, Tubs chirps and nudges my hand with his head.

“Yeah, yeah, I know. I just miss him is all.”

My phone vibrates in my bag next to me, and I dig it out from under my laptop and notebooks. Tubs’s ears flatten as he’s disrupted; I hush him affectionately and go back to petting him with one hand even as I bring up my text messages.

>> Did you make it home safely?

I smile and apologise to my cat before tucking my hand under his belly. He lets out a soft growling noise and tries to escape, but I’m faster, snapping a photo quickly. His back claws dig into my thigh as he runs away from me the instant I release him, and I attach the selfie to a text. The picture makes me laugh aloud - in it, I’m grinning widely, almost manically, as Tubs’s slightly-blurred face is twisted to the side, mouth open in a hiss.

>> I’m glad to see your smile. It’s as beautiful as you are.

I scrunch up my nose, attach three eye-roll emojis, and send it off with a Thank you. My attention is dragged from the text conversation by the front door opening and the telltale sound of my dad’s work boots hitting the hardwood floor. He waves at me as he passes through the living room, and I frown. He’s always so tired lately, and I hate that his job is so physically demanding. He isn’t as young as he used to be; he’s certainly not getting any younger. His bedroom door closes, and I pad down the hall after a few minutes to knock on it.

“Hey, Dad? What’cha want for dinner?”

“Chinese?”

“Yeah, I’m not spending sixty bucks for three meals.” I pause, thinking. “Homemade Chinese okay?”

He grunts in response, which I take as agreement, and I head to the kitchen. Thankfully, we have all the stuff needed for General Tso’s chicken from the last time my dad wanted Chinese food. I open Pandora on my phone, setting it to the Stevie Nicks station, and turn up the volume while I set about making dinner. Tubs comes out of my room to investigate after about twenty minutes; he jumps up onto the dining table and watches with wide eyes as I move around.

“Hey, something smells great.”

“Thanks, Henry. Wanna set the table while I finish up?”

“No problem, hun.” Henry comes into the kitchen, skidding to a stop when he sees the feline on the table. “Tubs is home!”

Task forgotten, Henry sits in one of the chairs, immediately scratching under Tubs’s chin. My cat magnanimously allows the attention, soaks it up without hesitation. I huff out a laugh but let them bond, taking the skillet off the burner while I reach for the cupboard with the plates. I call for my dad to let him know dinner is ready as Henry finally grabs silverware from the drawer.

Tubs doesn’t leave the kitchen as we sit down to eat, and unlike every other night, we don’t shoo him from the room. We get halfway through the meal when my dad clears his throat, turns his gaze on me. I know what he is about to say before he even opens his mouth; I’m proven right when he asks if my “friend” is the one who found Tubs. I roll my eyes, push my chicken and rice around my plate. But the one thing I’ve never been able to do is lie to my father, so I give him a jerky shrug.

“Yeah, he texted me earlier to let me know he’d found Tubs out by the vet’s office.”

“And why was he back there?”

“Probably because he recognised the building.”

“You know I’m not talking about the cat, Jo Beth.”

I sigh, standing up, and carry my plate to the sink. “Because he knew I had class and wouldn’t be able to get back there, and Tubs would possibly be gone by the time I got there.”

“He sounds like a nice guy,” announces Henry, and my dad scoffs. “Oh, stop it, Dennis. She’s your daughter, but you can’t always think the worst about every boy who looks her way.”

“And this is my cue to go somewhere that isn’t here. I cooked, you two can clean. Love you!”

I grab my phone off the counter on my way through the living room and disappear into my bedroom. Tubs follows obediently. Closing the door on the argument that’s brewing in the dining area, I flop face-first onto my bed, groan when Tubs decides to walk across my back. I don’t get the chance to protest as he lies down on my spine; his purring vibrates against me, and I decide to just relax. That he’s home again is amazing.

I tuck my arms under my head and stare at the wall across from me. As I lie there with my cat curled up on my back, I let my mind wander. I can’t help but wonder what Wil would think of me today. I’ve grown a lot in the last couple of years, become more confident in who I am as a person; losing him has been a large part of that growth. It forced me to step out of the idyllic world I’d been living in with him and into reality. My father and uncle had been so wonderful helping me through the pain; they hadn’t forced me to make any decisions regarding where I’d live, they helped me sell the house once I had chosen to move back home. If I hadn’t had them through everything, I’m sure it all would have overwhelmed me and I would have crumbled under the pressure of trying to keep myself together.

The picture on my bedside table sends a pang through my heart when I turn my gaze to it. Seeing Wil so happy, knowing I will never get the chance to see that grin or his dark eyes lighting up… I breathe out shakily, smiling against the tears. No matter the end, I’m grateful for the year and a half we had as husband and wife. Sure, I would have liked more time with him, but what we had were perfect enough while it lasted. It hadn’t taken long for Uncle Henry to come around on the idea of me marrying Wil, even though he had proposed after only five months. My dad, on the other hand, wasn’t as thrilled, but he supported our decision.

I’m ripped from my thoughts by the buzzing of my phone next to me. Tubs lets out a quiet growl when I roll over, but he moves out of the way anyway. I press a kiss to his nose before unlocking my phone. A smile tugs at my lips at the sight of Harry’s name at the top of my screen.

>> I know this might be too forward since we’ve only been talking for 3 days, but can I take you to dinner?

<< Like… a date?
<< Are you serious????

>> Is that a no?

<< It’s not a no. It’s a “Are you serious??” Wtf, why would you want to go on a date with ME??

>> Why wouldn’t I?

I sigh, setting my phone down, and cover my face with my hands. What am I supposed to say? Harry is such a fantastic guy from what I’ve gotten to know, but I don’t know if I’m ready for a relationship. It’s been two years, and I know I should be, but… I just don’t know. Exhaling unsteadily, I grab my phone and give him as honest an answer as I can.

<< Sorry but I’ll have to think about this. It’s… a lot to process rn. I promise I’ll let you know as soon as I have an answer.

>> Take your time, love x

His response came quickly, as if he had expected to reassure me, and it causes something inside of me to tighten. I stare down at the four words, wondering why the Hell they would be affecting me this way.
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